Advice for Young Women Seeking to Crack the Glass Ceiling
Written by Gloria Martinez
The term “glass ceiling” has been thrown around a lot in reference to women making upward advancements in their career, but what is it exactly? ThoughtCo. defines it as “an invisible upper limit in corporations and other organizations, above which it is difficult or impossible for women to rise in the ranks.” Although it isn’t fair that there is an invisible force preventing you from rising to role of greater leadership, it isn’t impossible to break through.
Identify Key Competencies of a Leader
According to MindTools, key competencies refer to the skills and attributes of those people that comprise your company’s upper levels or leadership positions. Take the time to seek out these individuals within your organization and observe their personality, mannerisms, leadership style, and methods of communication to understand what sets them apart. Think about the behaviors your company values and rewards, and what type of people are promoted.
Once you’ve identified the core competencies, set goals to align yourself with them. Let your boss know of your desire to work toward a higher position and ask him or her what skill areas you need to improve upon. Work with your boss to set goals and objectives, and then measure your progress and performance.
Network with the Top-Level
In an interview on LinkedIn, women’s leadership expert Becky Shambaugh encourages women seeking leadership roles to build a network of individuals outside of your company that include senior-level leaders, key influencers, and those who can not only provide support, but genuinely care about your success.
According to The Glass Hammer, many women have made it to the top of their department, taken on a leadership role, or become part of the executive management, but the common obstacle is that they haven’t built the necessary network to get them there. Your network should include senior members of both sexes within your company. It is important to strengthen your core network because in the end “you have to navigate the politics there to get to the upper echelons of the management team and have the caliber of contacts needed” to be invited into or even considered for a leadership role.
Find a Mentor or Sponsor
If jumping right into mingling with top-level management seems a little daunting, consider finding a mentor to help make the introductions and get your foot in the door. The National Career Development Association (NCDA) states that finding someone who has “been there, done that” will be helpful in connecting you with other influential people. In addition, a mentor can help you develop in areas such as time management, stress management, prioritizing, teamwork, and communication skills, all of which are important components of what makes up a good leader.
While mentors help you improve, consider a sponsor to help you get ahead. In a Forbes article by Dr. Joann Eisenhart, she defines sponsorship as “someone in a position of power who uses his or her influence to advocate on your behalf.” A sponsor could be your boss, your boss’s boss, or anyone who knows your merit and is willing to vouch for you.
Keep in mind that sponsors are someone who is willing to put their reputation on the line for you, so it probably isn’t a good idea to simply ask around for someone to be your sponsor. Sponsorship is earned when a person trusts you, knows your work, can attest to your character, and recognizes your potential. Sponsorships are cultivated over time with the professionals you work with, so perhaps find a mentor first and then build upwards from there.