One Secret of Success

Dr. Purushothaman
December 11, 2013

What is the glass ceiling? If you look it up online, the generic description will be that it is a metaphor used to describe invisible barriers that prevent women and minorities from advancing to the upper level of management.

Did you know that women make up 46.7% of the labor force? Of that, a little over 50% of those women make up management and professional positions. However, only 14% are in executive positions and less than 3% are in a CEO position, according to research done by Catalyst. That is so low that you can almost count them on your two hands.

And it should not be a surprise that women get paid less - about 17% less on average according to The Department for Professional Employees.

Why is there such a big drop in the amount of women in executive and higher positions? As you can imagine, there are a multitude of reasons, some of it personal, some of it organizational and some of it societal. Either way, it is obvious that there is a glass ceiling of some sorts when it comes to the professional woman rising to the top.

Even if you do not define your success as being the next CEO of a company, that doesn't mean you won't benefit from understanding why it exists. It may help you be more satisfied and successful in any of your professional ventures.

Three reasons why the glass ceiling exists:

Reason #1: Stereotypes?
Unfortunately, there are still stereotypes that limit upper management from recognizing women and minorities from being promoted. A common phrase I remember is that men are promoted or hired because of their potential abilities while women are promoted because of our effort.
Is it fair? No. But guess what, ladies, do we let it happen? Maybe we do. In a previous life, I was in a position where I knew I should be promoted. I wasn't even being considered. It stressed me out. I couldn't sleep. And I didn't understand why! Well, now I do. The new director did not "see" me as management material regardless of how successful and hard working I was. But you know what I did? This leads us to Reason # 2:

Reason #2: We don't ask!

You don't get something you want if you don't ask for it. Women who actually ask for promotions and pay raises make more than women who don't ask. Simple.

That's what I did. I asked for the position. Just because the new director didn't think of me doesn't mean that he shouldn't have! So I had to put it in his mind. Guess what? I got the promotion.

Now I understand. And so do you, right?

Regardless of what you ask for, remember to make sure you have specific reasons as to why you deserve it and why your reasons are good for the company. So have a plan and remember that business is business.
Recently, I held a seminar in conjunction with a back-to-work program. It was about interview etiquette. One point I make is that you need to ask for what you are worth. Unfortunately, the women in the audience were so taken aback by the thought of actually ASKING or negotiating for a higher salary, I fear that they will just take what they can get.

Understand that the glass ceiling breakthrough to our success can be up to us but we have to ask!

Reason #3: Lack of Mentorship

It has been a long time since I've heard of a formal mentorship program in an organization. It may be that your corporation has a mentorship and training program but you do not get any benefit from it. Or, more common is that you really don't have a mentor.

Well, that is why I created this magazine! To provide online mentorship. But what I've done is to ASK people that I consider mentors to provide valuable professional and personal developmental insights for me as well as you! The people I've asked have strengths that somewhat differ than my own or they provide inspiration and a new way to look at things.

You now understand that there are still stereotypes about women. Maybe we'll call it ignorance. Regardless, we will not have our success breakthrough if we don't ask! A mentor can help supplement our ideas and point us in the right direction. By understanding this and doing something about it we can break through!

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