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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

C-Suite Advisory

Smashing Through The Glass Ceiling!

When we think about managers we think about men. However, when we think about leaders do we think about women? We must think about women because women are better leaders than men in several aspects. Most men talk about women empowerment and equality of women but in reality, a few of them walk their talk and advocate gender equality globally.

Although leadership is not gender-specific, we find only a few women leaders globally due to cultural, religious, social, and other factors including the glass ceiling. The good news is that currently women are smashing through the glass ceiling and excelling globally to carve a niche for themselves. Despite several constraints, women are proving their credentials and capabilities on par with men. They are not behind in any way when compared with male leaders.

Challenges Holding Women Leaders Back

Several factors are holding women leaders back within global organizations—stereotypes, structural obstacles, lifestyle issues, institutional mindsets, and individual mindsets to name a few. There are several barriers to the advancement of women leaders including glass ceiling, prejudices, the old boy network, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and lack of mentors to name a few. Here are some reasons that are holding women back to reach senior-level positions. C-suite women executives express that their gender cost promotion. Most women don’t aspire to avoid pressure and stress at the top level. Most women work in staff roles, not line roles thus losing out in the race to the top.

Addressing the Challenges

Here are some solutions to overcome the challenges. Offer equal access to developmental experiences that would prepare women for senior levels. Make HR policies women-friendly. HR feedback helps them assess and improve themselves. Encourage mixed-gender management teams. Here are the ways to address some challenges elaborately:

  • Overcome ‘Queen Bee’ Syndrome: Women encounter several challenges to establish and become successful. Mostly they encounter challenges from their male superiors and colleagues. In rare cases, they find challenges especially suppression from the same sex which is known as ‘Queen Bee’ Syndrome. Queen bees are the successful senior women who don’t allow other ambitious princesses to succeed in the workplace. Worse, they prevent young women from reaching their senior positions. Their attitude and approach hurt the interests of other ambitious young women leading to decreased morale and increased litigations within the organizations. Their behavior adversely affects organizational performance and productivity. Therefore, Queen Bee Syndrome can be defined as the practice where the successful senior women prevent ambitious princesses from reaching the senior positions. The examples of queen bees include Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi who were former Prime Ministers to UK and India respectively. There are several reasons for women turning into queen bees. They want young women to struggle and suffer because they struggled and suffered to reach their senior positions. They lack empathy and sympathy toward the same gender. They turn out to be hard and their leadership style becomes autocratic.  There may be psychological reasons, their personality type, and the environment in which they were brought up. At times, they behave themselves more like men and distance themselves from other women thus endorsing the glass ceiling. A few women turn into queen bees to flow along with the malestream to fast-track their careers. Queen bees must learn that great leaders pave the way for others by laying the ladder. To empower women and ensure their career advancement, we need righteous women, not queen bees.
  • Impart Soft Skills Training for Women Leaders: Soft skills are essential for everyone irrespective of rank, position, and gender. They are essential, especially for women to excel as leaders and C-level executives. There is a myth that soft skills are closely connected with gender. The truth is that soft skills are not gender-related. They are essential from janitors to the highest positions in the organizations. You can acquire soft skills through various means including observation, reading, training, experience, and practice. Soft skills training equips you with skills, abilities, and knowledge. However, your interaction with others helps you acquire soft skills greatly. Since soft skills are behavioral skills, people must learn by trial and error method by using their emotional intelligence, and through flexibility and adaptability. You must be practical, realistic, and situational to acquire soft skills. Above all, you must learn from your failures to improve your behavior to get along well with others effectively. The dearth of soft skills will adversely affect accommodation, food services, retail, health, and social work sectors in the future.
  • Equip Networking Skills for Women Leaders: It is not what you know but who you know matters in this networked world. Having connections helps you greatly to fast-track your career. Some people get quick visibility while some remain incognito forever. Some people even leave this world as unsung heroes and heroines. Therefore, having connections helps you greatly to achieve success. 3Cs are essential to succeed in all spheres—content, communication, and connections. Content is king while communication is queen. When your content is strong, you earn respect from others. At the same time, you must have strong communication skills to convey your content to reach the right audiences. Connections are the people who spread a word about your content and communication. Hence, having content, communication, and connections helps you achieve amazing success in all spheres.  Networking is an art, not rocket science. Anybody can network if they acquire basic tools and techniques. If a raindrop falls into an ocean, it loses its significance; if the same raindrop falls into a shell, it becomes a pearl. The right people must connect with the right people at the right time to achieve the right outcomes. The difference between the lucky people and the unlucky people is that lucky people have connections while the unlucky people don’t have any connections.
  • Close the Gender Pay Gap Globally: Salary negotiation is a collaborative process between the employer and the employee. It must be a win-win outcome to ensure employee engagement effectively and achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness. Women must learn how to negotiate their salaries to end up rich at the end of their careers. Failing to do so will result in undervaluing their resumes, low productivity, and low morale in the workplace. They must remember that unless they ask, they don’t get what they want. While negotiating pay compensation men are direct and women are indirect in their approaches. At times it becomes difficult for employers to understand what women want. Therefore, women must communicate clearly about their expectations. They must not react negatively across the negotiating table. They must maintain neutral body language; avoid expressing eagerness to get employment or overexcitement if offered more salary; and keep cool and composed. They must focus on their core skills and strengths and bargain from the position of strength.
  • Ensure Work-Life Integration for Women: Work-life integration is a challenging issue for both men and women. In fact, it is more challenging for women as they must take a break for their motherhood and take care of their children at home. For women, there is often a conflict between the biological clock and the career clock. Balancing both is a challenging task for them. Companies including Facebook and Google encourage work-life integration which encourages some leisure time for their employees to pursue their hobbies or to relax during the working hours to enable them to recharge. Instead of searching for work-life balance, women must reframe their minds and integrate work and life to lead a complete life. Previously people worked hard for more than 8 hours a day for 6 days a week. Presently people work smart for 8 hours a day for 5 days a week. In the future, people will work wise for 6 hours a day for 4 days a week.
  • Leverage Social Media: Social media has played a crucial role to highlight various social issues including women empowerment. It has highlighted many unnoticed issues. It has connected the people globally and brought democracy virtually. Although it has created chaos in some aspects, it has transformed society by highlighting social justice and bringing social change. Women are better informed than ever before due to the internet and advanced technology. There is growing awareness and assertiveness to fight for their equality. Technology has become both a boon and bane and it all depends on how you view it. Instead of viewing it as your enemy, you must treat it as your ally to harness it effectively to achieve human progress and prosperity. Many people viewed it as an ally and participated in social media to share their knowledge, ideas, insights, and opinions. Some people leveraged social media to build their brands and fast-track their careers. Women leaders including Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Arianna Huffington have successfully leveraged social media to brand and market themselves.

Smashing Through the Glass Ceiling: When you want to achieve growth and prosperity it is imperative to encourage women participation in developmental activities. A bird cannot fly with one wing because it needs two wings to fly. Similarly, when you want society to progress, you must advocate women empowerment and participation who constitute half of the global population. When both men and women participate, imagine the type of society we will pass on to the next generation. Hence, men must support women wholeheartedly to build a prosperous world. To conclude, women must smash through the glass ceiling. They must not shy away from shouldering responsibilities. They must stay in the game by learning and leading. They must break structural obstacles and build connections to fast-track their careers.


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Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India. He is an International Leadership Guru with thirty-nine years of experience and the author of forty-eight books including the award-winning See the Light in You: Acquire Spiritual Powers to Achieve Mindfulness, Wellness, Happiness, and Success (Waterside Productions). He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030. Most of his work is available on his blog. Professor M.S. Rao is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.