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Let’s be clear – there is no glass ceiling!

Glass_ceiling_in_Mare_building image from BING edited by Matthew BroomheadI have something to share with you and you may not like it. You are misinformed if you think there is a glass ceiling…

I was chairing an expert business professional panel and some very talented and experienced women in their late 20’s and early 30’s explained to some more junior professionals that they’d never experienced a glass ceiling and didn’t think there was one these days.

Here is the reality for most talented hard working women in Professional and financial services.

There is no glass ceiling.

There’s actually a big concrete reinforced steel structure above them!

After the panel event I spoke to an award winning business lady who sat on the panel and was in her mid-30’s and I explained that I thought they were naïve. She agreed that there is often a ceiling on success, but they were too young to have experienced applying for senior management positions where they would start hitting it.

The problem is that people don’t take time to look up and actually see what is above them because they are doing these three things all the time:

  • They are so focused looking down at those below them and trying to manage them and convince them to do things.
  • They are so worried about the competition of their peers at the same level as them.
  • They are politically manoeuvring to get to the next step up the ladder, and didn’t realise that if they look further than the next step, their ladder is moulded into a concrete ceiling.

A big concrete reinforced steel structure? Aren’t you over-reacting a little Matthew?

I attended an AGM of one of the most successful PLC companies in the UK. It is valued at over $1bn with massive growth potential. The Prime Minister has endorsed them as an example of the best of British Business. They have dozens of market related accolades and one of the most diverse groups of people working with them at the grass roots level. However, when the senior management team were brought out onstage for a standing ovation (which was well deserved), only one out of the fifteen was female. Unsurprisingly that lady was the HR Director. They were all white middle-class 30-55 years. I love the company, but was so disappointed with the lack of diversity of the senior management team. If a British forward thinking company appears to lack real diversity at senior levels then what opportunities are there in other “average” firms?

If you are a woman and you want to get to senior positions, then it is going to be difficult. Very difficult.

If you are fortunate. Very fortunate. Your organisation might be actively aiming for a 20% quota of women on its board. Yes, in Britain in 2016 it does seem unambitious to have a rather low level and yet we are falling short of even achieving that in many organisations.

You will have to be more skilled, more influential, more driven, more patient, more focused, more creative, more experimental, and more organised than your male counterparts.

This might sound a bit biased or unfair, and I’m willing to have my mind changed, but as far as I can see, this is how the UK works and it is how the game is played. I don’t agree with it, but that’s unfortunately life.

Tell me something I don’t know…

My intention is to wake up those that are prepared to seriously and intelligently think about this issue.

So what can you do?

Firstly, join an organisation where you are rewarded for the harder you work and where it is in your team’s interest for you to quickly get promoted. There are only a few of them, so this is easier said than done, but ask me if you don’t already know such an organisation.

Secondly, get seriously into P.R.O.U.D. I don’t mind if you develop these five skills from me or someone a lot less experienced, but develop them. To remind you the five fundamental skills are:

  • Presenting
  • Relationships & networking
  • Outcome setting
  • Understanding & influencing others
  • Direction of Leadership

Here are some suggestions to develop these skills:

  • Join a speakers club.
  • Get nominated onto a voluntary board of an organisation you believe does valuable work.
  • At work be proactive and setup learning groups of likeminded people and cross network i.e. book clubs.
  • Network with as many senior people as you can.
  • Get a mentor. Life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself so learn from others and make sure they are someone that will ask you the real questions that feel uncomfortable.
  • Get a decent business coach. Not someone naïve enough to spend thousands just on a weekend course and only has a certificate to show for it. Twelve months down the line you may have enjoyed your sessions of coffee and chat, but you won’t have changed unless you find someone skilled enough to “listen to what is not being said”.

Change is hard. Change has to be uncomfortable.

And before I hear someone arguing that change is easy, then the simple reply is this. If it were easy you’d be doing the new behaviour. You wouldn’t even be talking about considering the change; you’d automatically be doing the new behaviour.

Change shouldn’t be hard, because physically it’s just a few neurones in your brain disconnecting and reconnecting to a new behaviour.

But it is. That’s life!

However unfair the environment may initially appear, if we understand how it works, then we can adequately plan and ultimately succeed within it and still maintain our own values and ethics.

Matthew Broomhead
“Raising the level of Business Skills in Britain”
Creator of Broomhead Business Channel

Permanent link to this article: http://www.matthewbroomhead.co.uk/lets-be-clear-there-is-no-glass-ceiling/