Is the Glass Ceiling Still Relevant? Cultivating Ambition for Women in the Workforce

Imagine a world where the sky is the limit for everyone, regardless of gender. 

A world where ambition, determination, and skill pave the way without disruption of barriers holding talented individuals back. 

As children, we believe we can be anything we want to be, and then…we grow up and receive a hard slap across the face from society.

The invisible barrier

The glass-ceiling is an invisible barrier that can prevent women in high positions from advancing further; it exists, but is it still relevant? 

As of 2022, women make up 37% of leadership positions. In 2015, this figure was 31%. 

Progress is happening, but it’s happening slowly. 

There is no quick-fix to gender inequality, and solutions are not a one-size-fits-all. 

It’s important to recognise the glass-ceiling because then we can take actionable steps to remove it, achieve gender equality, and unleash the full potential of women.

Researcher Isobel Coleman notes that hinderances to female professional advancement have a negative effect on employee morale and the financial progression of companies: ‘Women’s disempowerment causes staggering and deeply pernicious losses in productivity, economic activity, and human capital’.

Isobel gives a great example of a successful investment campaign: in 2008 Goldman Sachs launched a programme called 10,000 Women: ‘a $100 million global initiative to invest in business and management education for female entrepreneurs in developing countries’.

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The five point plan

But we aren’t all world-leading investment banks, so, what can we do on a smaller but still impactful scale? 

Isobel suggests a Five Point Plan:

‘Success must be measured appropriately and fairly’.

‘Incorporate a fund dedicated to empowering women’ – i.e., employing more women.

‘Companies should concentrate on providing skills and resources to female entrepreneurs and business leaders’. Show a vested interest in the outcome of conflicts taking place over the role of women in many developing countries.

‘Corporations should try not to reinvent methods that have already been perfected by others to simply appear innovative and committed’.

If women are expected to fulfil the same roles as men, they must be treated with the same respect.

Empowerment is not about giving power to others. It is about creating an environment where people can access and exercise their power effectively. Read that again.

Empower your female colleagues and friends and chip away at the glass

In senior roles especially, there is a fine line between condescending and encouraging. Here are a few ways you can empower your female colleagues and friends and chip away at the glass:

  • Listen: Show a genuine interest in a person’s aspirations and ideas. 
  • Encourage them to talk about themselves and celebrate their strengths and achievements. 
  • Support: When needed or asked, offer emotional support and a compassionate and caring hand.
  • Mentorship: Offer information, knowledge, and resources to help them reach their goals. 
  • Inclusivity: Create an environment that values everyone. If someone hasn’t spoken yet, motivate them to share their thoughts. Decision
  • Making: Promote autonomy by encouraging every individual to make their own decisions – intuitive and evaluative. Model: Lead by example. 
  • Demonstrate empowered behaviour and fortify personal growth.

Women: to look beyond the glass-ceiling, we have to look through it – acknowledge it – and let our ambition thrive regardless.

There is a plethora of powerful, and ambitious women we can look to for inspiration.

Indra Nooyi is the former CEO of PepsiCo

Indra Nooyi is the former CEO of PepsiCo. Born and educated in India, Indra received a high honours in management, and despite not having any money after school, she worked hard and achieved her master’s degree at Yale.

After gaining experience at other major companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Indra joined PepsiCo in 1994 as senior VP of corporate strategy and development, and by 2006, she was CEO.

She was responsible for guiding major brand restructuring, including partnerships with KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. 

So, how did she do it?

Amongst her many other triumphs, Indra is best known for her leadership philosophy. Her ‘5 C’s of Leadership’ are as follows:

  • Competency (become the ‘go-to’ person for a particular skill)
  • Courage and Confidence (always be willing to speak up)
  • Communication (‘you cannot over-invest in becoming a better communicator’)
  • Consistency (‘you can change your mind, but only against a consistent framework’)
  • Compass (‘integrity is critical in a leader’s job’)

There are many more ways to learn from Indra, she’s delivered some great advice on various platforms. 

Here’s one to get you started with:

The glass-ceiling was not relevant for Indra Nooyi, it was undoubtedly an obstacle at times, but she never let it stop her from achieving her dreams.

Make your child-self proud, and scream your ambitions so loud that the invisible glass-ceiling is forced to shatter

ProspHER can support you in evolving your story and progressing professionally with passion, purpose and power – find out how here.

This article was researched and written by Bronte Littlewood, Freelance writer at ProspHER.

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