To See or Not To See the Glass Ceiling: That is the Question

Glass-Ceiling-231510For every woman or minority who has entered the professional workplace, particularly in a corporate setting, the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ is a commonly acknowledged part of her career. By definition, the glass ceiling is an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, esp. affecting women and members of minorities. When people debate the topic of equality in the workplace, you’re guaranteed to hear those words: glass ceiling. Everyone says that it exists. But does it have to? As a professional woman, do you have to acknowledge and be forever stuck on one side of the barrier?

According to Hillary Clinton at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, “Ceilings in America are unacceptable, and we’re going to be about the business of making sure those ceilings crack. So let’s get cracking!”

That night Clinton announced the launch of the “no ceilings” initiative which will work to foster gender equality around the world. She made a passionate speech urging the audience to stand up for women’s rights, to promote women into leadership positions and to end discrimination. Although Clinton acknowledged the challenges here in the U.S., she also focused on other countries where women cannot sign legal contracts or open bank accounts. Clearly there are still basic human rights that need to be granted in some parts of the world. But what about here in U.S. workplaces? How do we crack our glass ceilings?

In an article for Entrepreneur magazine, Linsay Broder says that she doesn’t want to hear about the glass ceiling any more. In fact, she says that glass ceiling continues to exist because women insist that it does.

“There’s nothing wrong with talking about barriers for growth for women in the workplace, but much of the conversation today paints the proverbial glass ceiling as if it’s something women have no control over.

That sounds like victimhood to me. Women do have control, and in some ways, are to blame for the glass ceiling’s continued existence.”

She goes on to say that she believes women should earn equal pay for equal work, but that having women’s organizations demand equality in the workplace is a short-gap measure. Demanding that an employer do XYZ to show that they don’t discriminate against women only offers a Band-Aid to the larger problem.

“While we’ve made some good progress over the years, I believe some of the choices we have made have held us back from shattering this metaphoric barrier. Do you really want to get promoted just to fulfill a mandatory quota? Does that achieve true success? I would argue not.”Woman ready for fight with adversity concept.

Broder writes that one of the biggest challenges facing women on the ladder to success is other women. In her years of working in Corporate America and as a career coach, she has found that other women were often the ones refusing to help their female coworkers get ahead. Or even worse, they spent their time trying to cut them down while expecting them to fail.

“According to a 2012 report by the Federal Aviation Administration on workplace bullying, 68 percent of workplace bullying is same-sex harassment and of that 68 percent, 80 percent of cases are women-on-women harassment. So ladies, what does that say? Why should men respect us if we don’t respect ourselves?”

Finally she offers this advice:

“If you really want to get ahead you must tune out that noise and just go for it. When we pay attention to this so-called glass ceiling, we give it validation and, in turn, invalidate ourselves. Just because there is an obstacle in your way doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Figure out a way to climb over it or maneuver around it. And if you figure out that you are at a dead end in your current job, do something about it.”

It’s startling to think that some of the people who complain about the glass ceiling may be the ones perpetuating it, and according to Broder, those people may be women. When you look at your career goals, are you limiting yourself because you expect that you can only go so far? And are you helping your female co-workers in their paths to success? Clinton’s speech addressed inequality from the perspective of a male dominated workplace, but she probably should have spoken to the women in the audience and how they needed to work together as well. As Broder wrote, how can we expect men to respect us when we don’t respect each other?


Women, Are We To Blame For the Glass Ceiling? Retrieved Nov 2 2013

Hillary on Glass Ceiling: “Let’s Get Cracking!” Retrieved Nov 2 2013