Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

According to a 2014 study, women make up just a quarter of those employed in upper management positions at Australian companies. In addition to being underrepresented in management positions, women take home about 25 per cent less than men in average full-time earnings. In terms of gender parity in the workplace, Australia falls behind much of Europe, Africa, and some Asian countries. These figures might seem discouraging, but it is possible for women to break through the glass ceiling and find success in the workplace. Ideally, changes in policy and hiring processes will help things along, but here are some things you can do in the meantime to get on the path to success.

Develop Your EQ

Once you get to the executive level, you’ll need to have a high level of self-awareness and self-regulation. Most of all, you’ll need to inspire trust and respect in your team in order to effectively lead them. Don’t wait until you’re ready to move up to develop these skills. Improving your emotional intelligence takes time and self-reflection. Start developing - and demonstrating - the competencies associated with a high EQ before planning your climb up the corporate ladder. (Read our blog posts about improving your EQ here and here.)

Be Vocal About Your Accomplishments

You are your own best advocate when it comes to recognising your skills, expertise, and potential. Others won’t value your contributions at work unless you do. This means that you should regularly check in with your manager rather than waiting for a formal review to inform them of your accomplishments. If you’re worried this will make you seem over-confident, try asking for feedback on the work you’ve been doing, rather than simply presenting it.

Know Your Worth

According to the Fair Work Commission’s Australian Workplace Study, nearly 20 per cent of men have negotiated a better wage for themselves, compared to 12 per cent of women. This leads to women earning less over their lifetimes and retiring with smaller superannuation than men. Unfortunately, pervasive gender stereotypes can lead others to believe women are “pushy” when they negotiate, so negotiations must be approached with caution. It always helps to bring objective data, such as the going rate for similar work at your organisation and in the industry as a whole.

Take Initiative

A 2014 internal report from Hewlett Packard showed that men tend to apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women will only apply if they meet 100% of the requirements. This leads to men moving up in their careers faster than women, because they’re applying to jobs when similarly qualified women won’t even throw their hats in the ring.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that men are often hired or promoted based on their potential, whereas women are judged for their experience and track record, so it’s possible that women who withhold their applications have noticed this. However, finding mentors who can coach you and senior-level sponsors who can advocate for you can help you get around this. You have to take the initiative to build these relationships to make sure you’re getting the consideration you deserve.

Speak Up For Yourself - And Other Women

Over at Forbes, Margie Warrell advises that you must teach people how you want to be treated. This means not letting others overlook or undermine you, and not standing for sexist comments in the workplace. If you’re worried about causing conflict by calling out sexist speech, try approaching the issue as if you’re helping out the person who misstepped. Say things like, “It’s a good thing the rest of the team wasn’t around to hear that! We might want to stay away from comments like that one.” You’ll be contributing to a better workplace for yourself and your female colleagues.

You should also make it a point to be heard in meetings. Women are more likely to be interrupted in conversation than men, and it can be tough to stand up for yourself without seeming confrontational. It can help to keep things light-hearted and say something like “Hang on, I’ve still got the floor!” And, when you see this happening to your female colleagues, try jumping in with, “[Colleague] wasn’t finished, and I’d really like to hear the rest of what she has to say!” Most of the time, interruptions are not necessarily intentional, and the phenomenon of women being interrupted in meetings is the result of unconscious bias rather than a direct effort to silence women. If you point interruptions out gently, you might prompt your colleagues to start noticing them as well.

These are just some of the steps you can take to gain the recognition you deserve and attain your career goals in a world where we haven’t quite attained gender parity in the workplace. Remember your value, and don’t be afraid to remind others! And, whenever possible, be an ally to other women in creating a better, more equal workplace.