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5 Ways to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

There are fewer large U.S. companies being led by women today than by men named John.

This week The New York Times reported the results of their Glass Ceiling Index , which measures gender inequality in the country’s corporate leadership. Their index shows 5.3% of the CEOs at S&P 1500 companies are named John, while all women only account for 4.1% of CEOs. This statistic confirms the glass ceiling still persists at the highest levels of business:

Photo courtesy of NY Times
But don’t give up hope yet. Achieving full gender equity at the top will take time, but large companies are adding more women to their boards every year, and more women are reaching the coveted corner office than ever before.

Here are five strategies women can use to climb their company’s corporate ladders and break the ceiling for good:

Don’t hide emotions…use them

Historically many women have tried to contain their emotions in the workplace in order to make them appear more professional and more qualified in order to compete with their male counterparts.

Yet studies have shown women on average have more emotional intelligence – social perception and social judgment – than men. When women are a part of groups, the overall emotional intelligence increases, and the groups perform better: in fact, according to Mintigo, a predictive marketing firm, companies with women leaders have 18% higher revenue per employee at large companies.

Don’t hide emotions at work: use them to strengthen the company. Bringing emotion to the job means bringing passion and commitment. From cheering for a big win too being upset about a lost deal… these emotions show you care. Every business needs the energy and motivation this level of passion provides.

Develop mental toughness

Learn not to take criticism personally, and don’t let it slow you down. Understand when a manager or co-worker is being critical, they’re trying to make you better. A thick skin takes time to develop, particularly if you’re new and still doubting your own potential. Practice separating the negative feedback from the tough love underneath, and find a lesson in every critique.

Sell yourself

Studies show that women are less inclined to discuss their achievements than men: psychologists have called it the “modesty norm”.The modesty norm means women are encouraged to be humble, and women who brag about themselves are often seen as over-confident and aggressive.

Yet highlighting one’s strengths and accomplishments is an important part of getting ahead at work. You don’t have to brag to get promoted, but you should understand your personal brand and be able to sell yourself to management or to potential employers. If you’re great at what you do, don’t hide it.

Be aggressive

Often when women are assertive in the workplace, they are labelled “bossy” and “disagreeable.” These labels are hurtful, but they don’t have to be harmful for your career. Lean into the stereotype, and then flip it. Be aggressive in your drive to be good at the job: get to work first, and be the last to leave. Push yourself to be an expert in the industry, and prove why you’re indispensable. Have someone reign you in vs. push you out.

Accept the praise

When women are recognized for success, many don’t accept it: they either downplay, distract, or deflect the compliments. But it’s much harder for women to get ahead at work if they aren’t projecting confidence and aren’t owning their successes. Nobody will give you credit if you aren’t giving it to yourself first.

Don’t be afraid to simply say “thank you” when someone acknowledges your good work. Resist disagreeing with the person, or deflecting the credit to others. When you deserve the credit, have the confidence to take it.