Career Change By Shattering The Glass Ceiling

I was really shocked to learn that women make up only 17% of board seats at the top Fortune 500 companies despite being represented at much higher levels at middle management level. All these corporates have equality policies to increase representation from women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, etc. to meet employment law.  So what is going wrong? And do you think it’s important that women make up half the board of a corporate to reflect their representation in the population? In terms of participation in parliament, women hold just 20% of the seats globally.

In the UK, last year only 3 of the FTSE100 executives were women. Employing more women in senior positions has the potential to increase productivity and boost profitability, says Jo Feely, Head of Consulting at Alexander Mann Solutions.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index is an annual report that in 2013 highlighted that leading companies are failing to capitalize on the talents of women in the workforce. In the US in 2010, women earned 0.77c for every dollar earned by a man. The WEF’s Corporate Gender Gap Report 2010 is the first study to cover the world’s largest employers in 20 countries and benchmark them against the gender equality policies. 600 of the heads of Human Resources at the world’s largest employers were assessed focusing on economic participation and the opportunity gap.

Although most companies should have gender policies in place the actual practice demonstrates they are usually missing. The report says that it is clear that corporates are not doing enough.

As women are half the potential human capital available in any economy, the WEF argues that the “efficient use of this talent pool is a key driver of competitiveness”. As Professor Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF says, “Women account for one-half of the potential talent base throughout the world and therefore, over time, a nation’s competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent”. In my view, no country can afford to neglect the skills of their women and when they do, it’s to the nation’s detriment.

In 2011, McKinsey & Co. published a report that found that whilst men are generally promoted on their potential, women are promoted on past accomplishments. There are a number of reasons why women choose to remain at their current level or move on to another organization. It was been that women at middle management level were more interested in progressing to leadership roles than entry level women.

Women cited the following reasons for their lack of advancement, despite having confidence and wishing to progress: “lack of role models, exclusion from the informal networks, not having a sponsor in upper management to create opportunities”.

Sheryl Sandberg in “Lean In” 2013, argues that whilst there are considerable barriers that exist in external society that hold women back, women are impeded in their progress by internal factors too.  There was criticism last year when the book was published as many people believed Sandberg was blaming women and letting institutions off the hook.  However, her position is that both external and internal obstacles have to be overcome and women themselves are central to their own advancement.

I agree with this stance as this is not a simplistic problem.  Yet I believe that with more role models such as Sandberg and McKinsey forging the way, women’s advancement is inevitable.  The question is, how long will it take to achieve parity?  That will depend on how strongly you wish to shatter the glass ceiling.  With a coach/mentor, the process will be accelerated and less difficult.

If you would like me to work with you to help you smash the glass ceiling, contact me at or call me on +44 7563 563 254.


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