Re-defining Your Glass Ceiling

04/06/2015 02:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2015

By: Lauran Star

Let me ask you a question: do you believe there is a glass ceiling where you work?

If you answered yes, you believe there is a glass ceiling at your employment, (1) what is the evidence of said ceiling beyond the lack of women being promoted? (2) What are you doing about it? And (3) Why are you still there?

I am not saying there is no glass ceiling, as there are organizations that hold women back from advancing. However, I argue the few organizations that have a "glass ceiling" effectively do so unconsciously. Companies are desperate to hire female CEOs. We hold the financial purse strings in the United States; thus, it makes strong business sense.

We need to redefine what the glass ceiling is:

Women in the business world often hear the term "glass ceiling," and while this is not a new phrase, redefining the glass ceiling is. Let me start by asking you one question: What has held you back all these years? Is it truly a glass ceiling, or your own lack of personal power or other skill sets to move forward?

Redefining the glass ceiling to the workplace mirror effect may bring you a new vantage point on where you need to develop your own skills to get ahead. Focus on how you are doing your job versus how others are doing theirs. What skills do you need to improve? How do you communicate and negotiate? Look around at your peer group, borrow skills they demonstrate and strengthen what you bring to the table.

Factors to consider before we look up and blame the ceiling:

Men and women work differently, and men were there first, so they were the rule setters. If we were playing a game of Survivor, men already have in place the influence, communication style, and alliance in place to win. However, if you change your perspective of us versus them, you in effect change the playing field.

Data supports a shortage of talent, meaning women who have reached the level of CEO have done the job and are now looking to move to another company. Women tend to be loyal to their organization. If we want more female CEO, there needs to be a focus on training and advancement than fosters inclusion and skills.

The difference in leadership skills. Men tend to be more transactional where women are more transformational in leadership. The best part of that statement is today's business culture is now more transformational than ever before.

Over 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have leadership diversity programs in place (Catalyst, 2004b). Pepsi Company has done a remarkable job promoting and preparing their female executives for success, and they are not alone. Their success is in the inclusion not diversity within the leadership teams meaning they understand the gender differences and utilize those differences as a strength in leadership.

Research is showing little significant glass ceiling effect in the United States market space for advancement; however, the excuse of a glass ceiling while determining what exactly it does is strongly present (Russo, Giovanni, and Hassink, 2012). Advancement is happening, ladies, we just need to open our eyes to see it and stop making excuses for what holds us, individually, back.

It is a simple scapegoat to cover up our own developmental needs. It is easier to blame a glass ceiling than to look inward and see your own truth that you may need a bit more development to advance. By stating the glass ceiling is in effect you are allowing your own needs to be overlooked.

Shifting Your Perspective

Approach the workplace like the game of Survivor rather than from a gender angle. Play it with your own strengths and find new areas of development to work with.

Ask questions like:

Who are your allies, and do they have the juice (influence) to get stuff done?

Who do you eat lunch with? Your pals or those who can help you grow and get ahead?

Have you defined your career path and let others know about it? Or are you waiting for them to guess what you want?

Do you have the skills needed to advance, and if not, what are YOU doing about it?

Who else around you has strong alliances? Can you merge yours with theirs, or are they opponents?

In meetings, are you heard, or are you a wall flower?

Do you understand the organizational power structure? If not, find out who does and then tap into that.

Where do you network (your sandbox)? Is it effective?

Q-TIP: Quit Taking It Personally! In business, it's business not personal. If it becomes personal, we are looking at a whole other horse to bet on.

The only thing you can change is yourself -- meaning, if the organization truly has a glass ceiling in place, you have a choice: fight it or leave.

If you decided to stay, your second choice is how you fight it: gracefully or like a bull in a china shop. I recommend gracefully as the level of resistance towards you will be lower. Be clear and concise on what you want and what you bring to the table. Take bite-size steps to educate versus vomiting laws and statures. Pivot your viewpoint to that of an educator, not the enemy.

Shattering the glass ceiling can be confusing in today's business world as many believe there is nothing to shatter. How you accelerate at work is a direct reflection on you as a person. Be humble and climb.

Lauran Star is the bestselling author of Your Power Pivot - Shifting the Paradigm of Work/Life Empowerment and the CEO of LS Consulting a firm focused on leadership development. Find out more at or twitter follow at