Breaking My Own Glass Ceiling: From “Less Than” To Leading

I was almost forty years old when I began to think more about how some men pay less attention to what I have to say, seemingly because I am female.  One man in particular, whom I looked up to, actively expressed disdain for a fairly benign perspective I shared.  Rather than question myself as I’d always done in the past, I started to question him and his motives.

It was like a light had finally turned on in my brain, illuminating a self-limiting belief that had been tripping me up for years; that because I was female I was somehow “less than.”  Because I thought I was “less than” it meant I deferred to a man’s opinion in conversation, nodding and keeping silent even if I didn’t agree with him at all. Because I was “less than” I had trouble figuring out whether I had to behave like a stereotypical man in order to be successful in business, or whether there were universal business skills I could develop.  I was oblivious to the possibility that women have unique capabilities to lead and succeed in the business world.

Because I thought I was “less than” it meant I deferred to a man’s opinion in conversation, nodding and keeping silent even if I didn’t agree with him at all.

In my work with people in career transition, I discovered that I was not alone in my “less than” thinking.  Many of us still struggle to see beyond what we’ve been socialized to believe since birth, and which is consistently reinforced in popular media.  We perceive that we operate in a man’s world and have to adapt ourselves to fit in, often suppressing valuable strengths and wisdom in the process.  We keep our career aspirations low and reasonable, lest we get too ahead of ourselves.

UGH.  Who wants to continue being as small as that, especially when the world needs us to be much greater?  Our daughters and sons need role models and true leaders to give them inspiration and hope for their future.  We are capable, qualified, creative, and skilled and we deserve to see ourselves that way and be recognized accordingly.  I’m not calling for a revolution but rather an evolution of how women show up in the workplace; to be a stronger presence, to have more positive influence, and to feel great about who they are and what they can offer to any worthwhile organization.

It’s been a work in progress for me as well.  I reflected back on my career and discovered that there were more glass ceilings than I realized.  I was overlooked for high potential programs in some organizations.  I voluntarily took on more administrative work and struggled to hold my own in conversations about strategy.  Later, as a new business owner, I limited the growth of my business because I thought I had no real right to dream as big as the men (and some women) in my field.

Slowly, through a series of conscious efforts, I began to change my own perspective.  I researched gender equality, reading about Impostor Syndrome, the Male Factor, and the women who fought for the basic rights I enjoy today.  I attended presentations and lectures and gave speeches on my own experience around gender equality and glass ceilings.  I paid more attention to the messages about women being “less than” in every aspect of our media.  I worked with a coach to help me challenge my deeply rooted beliefs about what is possible for me and how I am meant to show up as a leader in my work and life.

…an evolution of how women show up in the workplace; to be a stronger presence, to have more positive influence, and to feel great about who they are and what they can offer to any worthwhile organization.

Now it is my turn to share what I’ve learned and invite other women to embark on this path of self-exploration to discover what is possible for them in their work, and how they too can see themselves as the leaders they are.  To recognize the value of their natural strengths, develop essential skills to get ahead in their career, and feel great about themselves in the process.  It is with true delight that I am launching a six-month virtual group coaching program this fall, called: Break the Glass Ceiling! Develop Essential Skills to Advance Your Career (details here).

If this seems interesting to you, please join me for a free Information Session on July 25th or August 22nd where you’ll find out more about the program and be able to ask questions of your own (register here).  Or you can contact me to set up a 30-minute conversation so we can talk about what you need and see if it’s a fit.

When I finally realized my own self-limiting belief about being “less than” I began to notice how often this belief showed up to undermine me in my career.  I also noticed how readily it was reinforced in the workplace and society at large.  It hasn’t always been easy to see things as they are but by focusing on the positive changes I want to create in myself, and the many women and men who inspire me to keep trying, I’ve continued to make progress in moving beyond “less than” thinking to being the leader I am.  I’d love to have you join me.