05/03/2013 09:56 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

Does the Glass Ceiling Exist or Do We Often Times Create Our Own?

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I don't doubt the glass ceiling is still evident in the workplace. Women still encounter gender bias, barriers to leadership ascension, and segregation in the workplace. However, after a recent professional situation of my own I started to wonder if I was creating my own ceiling.

The question rose of "does the glass ceiling exist or do we as women often create our own"? started to resonate after a recent experience in which I hit the ceiling. After five years of service, I was denied a promotion and salary increase with an explanation of "why should I pay her more for what she already does"? This set off a spark in which I began to think.

After playing the response over and over again, I embarked upon numerous questions, followed with a few answers; but, two stood out as most important as it relates to women's ascension to leadership roles in the workplace.

Professional Development and Strategic Networking were the two most important aspects of my professional career I came up with as I "Leaned Back" to meditate on the situation.

I realized during the five years in my current role, work-life (managing multiple projects, balancing family, etc.) disallowed me to advance my skills in pursuing professional development opportunities either internally or externally to the organization. Although, my organization offers PD, hearing of limited funds to attend became a deterrent. Additionally, managing multiple project deadlines did not afford me the time needed to be away from the office to attend. While "Leaning Back" I realized in order to grow professionally, continued professional development is critical to my growth in my career. Consequently, gaining an extra skill or two would not have hurt in the promotional justification considering additional skills are an added value to the organization's growth and productivity. I also gained insight as to understanding that my development is a matter I need to take into my own hands moving forward. If the organization is not willing to develop me, I must develop myself. Embracing online training and development programs, tutorials, and even YouTube was right at my fingertips.

Relationships are important, especially workplace relations garnered through strategic networking. This experience taught me that networking is critical to climb the leadership ladder. I was so consumed with working to meet deadlines, managing projects, and rushing out the door to tend to family (nothing wrong with that), I did not strategically network to build relationships in the workplace which would have ultimately given me the visibility required to get to the next level.

So, I say all this to say, as professional women we already know what is evidently out there hindering us from advancing to the executive suite; and, sometimes they cannot be controlled. However, they can be changed, and change starts with us. Gaining additional skills through professional development and building strategic networks in the workplace are all variables we can control to assist us in our journey up the leadership ladder. Let's shatter our own glass ceiling and break through to the top.