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IWD 2024: Breaking the glass ceiling – Having a seat at a gender-disbalanced table
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

If you are trying to rise in the ranks and keep hitting unknown barriers, despite your qualifications and capabilities, you might be confronting what is known as a 'glass ceiling'. The glass ceiling is a metaphor that refers to the implicit biases preventing women and minorities from advancing their careers. The invisible barriers that exist in a workplace environment involve multiple areas such as nationality, gender, socio-economic status, age or generational differences, orientation, disability, etc.

As a woman of colour, I have noticed and experienced a glass ceiling in my career – not having a seat at the decision-making table and not being provided with the resources and tools to move ahead despite my qualifications and experience - through not only a gender bias but also a nationality bias. This affected my self-confidence to move forward, and when I started achieving success, it made me feel like I did not belong. What most people don't realize is that this kind of discrimination can hurt businesses, organizations, and all of society by limiting diversity. It creates a lack of representation for women and other minorities in leadership or decision-making roles and executive positions. It is, therefore, important to have a good mix of cultures, backgrounds and genders to bring in fresh ideas, perspectives and innovations that can push businesses to greater heights.

Although a lot of companies are investing in DE&I and creating awareness, I believe that the change and the movement need to start from within. It is up to you how you can take the first step to shatter the notion of a glass ceiling and get a seat at the table. So how can you, as an individual, achieve this and empower others to do the same?

  • Advocate for yourself and create your own personal brand: Make sure to be confident and highlight your strengths every step of the way in your career by creating your very own personal brand and showcasing your success to the leadership and your industry peers. Always stay visible by contributing to publications, sharing your views and becoming a thought leader in your area of expertise.
  • Upskilling: Upskilling unlocks new potential in a person and can help you steer away from career stagnation. To move forward, you need to keep up with the trends and update your current competencies and skill sets. Any form of executive education, online courses, and masterclasses will allow you to find that confidence to potentially move forward in your career and reach to the level of a leadership role.
  • Create a strong network of allies: Build strong connections with people in leadership positions not only within your organization but also outside of your day-to-day work through member organizations, support groups, mentorship/coaching programs, etc. You'll gain the support, advice and guidance that can help you advance in your career. 
  • Create your own opportunities: If you believe you have what it takes to branch out on your own, take that leap to start your own business, and then you can make a difference by hiring without bias and becoming a change-maker in your own right.

Therefore, I would say, for all the women who are just starting up their careers, start early by believing in yourself from the get-go and keep upskilling to maintain your career progress. You need to market yourself while at your job to get noticed, and you must be vocal about what you're doing. Whether it is within the company or outside, make sure to let people know all the work you're doing, highlighting accomplishments, etc., to stay on top of the visibility of the management and be remembered when a new opportunity arises. We can all admit that while working hard is imperative, it is very important to be bold and make sure your voice is heard and your achievements duly recognized.

By breaking the glass ceiling, you can overcome all those invisible barriers that would stop you from advancing in your career. You'll learn how those barriers affect you and tear them down. Plus, you'll pave the way for other women in the future to do the same. Always remember your actions don't just make a difference for you but for everyone.