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How women in business can identify their ‘glass ceiling’ then shatter it

The national and trade press has been doing its best to closely monitor the issue of women in business, or more importantly how to succeed as a woman in business, ever since the government put together a dedicated team to investigate why UK companies do not seem to value the notion of having female members in their boardroom.

Here at Muika Leadership (www.MuikaLeadership.com) we focus our energy on developing women in business so that they can break through the glass ceiling that exists at their organisation, and we’ve been working with women to do this for the past 20 years.

One of the key challenges here is actually knowing what a glass ceiling looks like and being able to find it, only then can you work out a strategy to get past it. Whilst there are still many external barriers that exist within business that can prevent or slow down a woman’s progression, quite often, the ceiling for women can be a series of limiting assumptions we make about ourselves, our place within the business, the skills we have etc. And these assumptions can serve to block or sabotage our progression.

So, crucially before you can attempt to ‘break through’ you need to identify your own ceiling, and there are different ways you can do this.

Whenever you get a lurch in your stomach or a feeling of discomfort about something you think you want, you are experiencing an internal barrier, a limiting belief or assumption that is unconsciously telling you, “you can’t do it”. When you experience this you need to acknowledge it and ask yourself this question: What am I assuming that’s stopping me from achieving this?”

Why is this an important question to ask? Because, once you know what your limiting assumptions are, you can look to get rid of or reduce these by telling yourself you can.

Here is a step-by-step exercise that has been proven time and time again by women in business who want to move on in their career, but feel there is something holding them back. This will help you to identify where and what that barrier is.

  1. Write down a list of your key goals, whether it is connected with your position in the company, or perhaps your salary expectations.
  2. Now, one-by-one imagine yourself in those careers, job roles, or salaries that you have written down in step 1.
  3. If you can imagine them clearly and comfortably – you’ve not reached your glass ceiling for that goal, and there is nothing standing in your way.
  4. If you find some of the targets hard to imagine, or feel discomfort thinking about yourself in that career, role, or salary – you’ve reached your glass ceiling. Now you need a strategy to get past the assumptions that are holding you back.
  5. To find a way forward, now ask yourself: “If I could do this, what do I need to do first to make this happen?” This way of thinking helps you to begin to see past a blockage in your thinking, and towards how you can succeed rather than why you can’t.

It may well be that you’ve hit the ceiling many times before during your career, but not realised that there were key assumptions that you were making that stopped you from progressing. Use this simple exercise and apply it to all the challenges that you face at work, from our years of experience in working with women in business across the globe, in the majority of cases the biggest barrier in your path is the one that you have placed. As the successful women’s coach Barbara Stanny once said, “the glass ceiling in my company is nothing compared to the lead ceiling in my head”.

About the Author: Karen Murphy is the women in business expert at Muika Leadership. She has trained and coached women across the globe and regularly runs her own small and exclusive open programmes in the UK as well. Read about Muika Leadership’s research, news, blogs and latest events at www.MuikaLeadership.com.

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