I recently took part in a discussion on Resonance 104.4FM radio (www.resonancefm.com) called 'Re-framing the Glass: Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Advancement in the Workplace'. Despite being in the 21st century where legislation exists to address issues of gender inequality, the issue of women’s advancement in the workplace continues to be a major issue. You can listen to the discussion here.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this, including societal factors where, as children, girls and boys are still fitted in to stereo typical roles; women are still the main carers; external factors including expensive childcare costs; internal factors such as patriarchal values that still exist in some organisations, unconscious bias, inflexible working patterns and personal factors such as fear, lack of confidence and a lack of resilience.
Whilst the societal factors and external factors are beyond the scope of a woman addressing single handedly, collectively, changes can be made. However, addressing personal factors are within the scope of an individual woman and the following 5 steps will help you to address your own personal barriers to advancement in the workplace.
A good place to start is getting a mentor or sponsor who can help you to identify ways you can accelerate your career and who can champion your cause. This could be someone within your existing organisation that is doing the kind of role that you aspire to, or it could be someone external.
Once you have identified the person, approach them and ask them to mentor you. You will often find that people are happy to support someone who is trying to climb the career ladder. Do not take it personally if they say no however, it could be that they are already mentoring someone or just don’t have the time. If this happens, approach someone else.
2. Brand You
Branding and marketing are often only associated with businesses. However, if you want to achieve advancement in your career, you need to be concerned with brand you.
Keep yourself marketable by continuously developing your skills and be aware of how your professional profile comes across. A lack of self awareness will mean you are not attuned to other people’s perceptions of you. Just because you think you are the best thing since sliced bread doesn't mean that others do. Be open to receiving feedback, even if it is not favourable because you can learn from it and adapt your behaviour if necessary.
In a survey I conducted of 133 women, only 12% said that they continuously updated their skills but yet a lack of skills is a common complaint I hear from women when they want to progress.
3. Self Promotion
This also ties in with point number 2. Too often women don’t like to blow their own trumpets. Whilst I agree that self-praise is no recommendation, too often women don’t highlight what they are good at and play down their successes and achievements.
I often find that women play down their skills. One client when talking about what her skills were, referred to ‘I can do a bit of this and a bit of that..’ When I asked what experience she had, she had a tremendous amount of experience but a lack of self belief prevented her from using positive, assertive language when describing what she could do.
4. Culture Fit
Unfortunately, unconscious bias and patriarchal values still exist in some organisations. If this is the case where you work, do you really want to be using all your energy fighting against a system that will continuously hold you back?
There are many organisations that support women’s advancement in the workplace and that have established staff networks that help to achieve this. In fact, each year, the Times produces a list of the UKs top 50 employers for women. The 2013 list can be found here.
Find out the culture of an organisation before you apply to work there. Do not just go by the company’s values statement. The best way to find out the true values of an organisation is to speak to the people that work in it and the customers.
5. Address Your Self-Limiting Beliefs
Fear and a lack of confidence is a significant factor holding women back from career advancement. A lot of the societal and external factors contribute to instilling these fears in women but it is down to you as an individual to address and overcome them.
Enlisting the services of a coach who is qualified and experienced to deal with issues such as these can help with this. Rejection and knock backs will often cause a woman not to continue pursuing their career aspirations. Developing your resilience will enable you to bounce back when this happens.
Whilst you personally may not be able to address the societal and external factors on your own, you can do something about your own personal factors that prevent you from breaking through the glass ceiling. And whilst you can’t personally change society’s norms and beliefs, you can contribute to making a difference.
I will be running my popular webinar 3 Mistakes that Prevent Women Having Successful & Fulfilling Careers again on 8 January 2014 at 8pm GMT. Comments on what they enjoyed about the webinar from those that have participated previously include: -
"Encouraging questions on how to address and overcome fear with steps on how to get out of your comfort zone."
"It was really easy to follow and the pace of it was just right."
"Thanks Carol - I have really enjoyed the session :-)" "Thanks to you I'm already well on the way"
Contact Carol here and overcome the fears that prevent your success.
You can read further blog posts here