I Can See There - But How Can I Get There?

What exactly is the ‘glass ceiling’?

The glass ceiling is an impenetrable barrier that prevents minorities from achieving positions of leadership. The barrier can exist as a result of both indirect and direct discrimination. It can be represented by fewer project opportunities available for some social groups, as compared to others.

Or it can be in the form of an unconscious bias that leads to executives promoting employees who are most like themselves. Even in this day and age, the glass ceiling remains a barrier to many individuals’ advancement in their careers.

What are the obstacles to breaking the glass ceiling?

Lack of individual persistence

It is important to have the right dedication in order to raise the ranks in a professional environment. A positive and humble attitude invites constructive criticism to improve skills and gain maximum experience. Individual persistence and determination are key components needed to rise to the top!

This can be achieved by gaining access to a good mentor. Someone who constantly pushes the individual to do more, be better and speak louder.

Melting the frozen middle

Another hindrance to breaking the glass ceiling is the ‘frozen middle,’ which describes how an individual’s career advancement often comes to a halt in middle management positions. As a professional, it becomes a responsibility to be prepared emotionally, and with the right skill set for the next level.

One solution to this problem is sponsorship. A sponsor can actively help advance careers by advocating for women, as well as men with their influence and capital. Sponsors provide training, coaching, and personal mentoring to prepare a dedicated individual for what’s next.

Sponsors work closely with their mentees, have candid conversations about the best professional strategies and provide encouragement during rough patches.


Avoiding the fall from the glass cliff

This sponsorship, mentoring, and guidance will be especially important when reaching the C-suite and boardroom to avoid falling off the glass cliff. The extent of professional development determines career stability.

The phenomenon of individuals making it to the boardroom but finding themselves in precarious leadership positions was coined by academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam in 2005.

It observes the possibility of breaking through the glass ceiling during periods of risk and uncertainty in businesses. This leaves the choice of accepting an unstable ‘glass cliff’ position or resigning and ‘failing.’

Organizations must continue to support leaders after they have reached the top and beyond these periods of uncertainty. This is necessary in order for careers and businesses to thrive. Nobody should be forced into a box defined by stereotypes.

Accelerate dedicated professionals to accelerate business

Breaking the glass ceiling and leaving your mark is much more than a diversity checkbox exercise. More opportunities in leadership positions equal more profitable businesses. If companies around the world prioritize sponsorship and advancement, we may be able to break the glass ceiling once and for all in the next 40 years!