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How to Sledgehammer the Glass Ceiling

By April 20, 2015December 19th, 2016No Comments

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, it can get to a point where the temptation to take the stilettos off, rub your aching feet and shove a pair of shabby old ugg boots on is overwhelming.

I am of course speaking metaphorically – well, sort of. I truly love nice shoes; but for women in leadership roles in Australia, the constant battle to unglue our feet from that sticky floor of workplace inequality does sometimes get incredibly tiring.

This doesn’t mean that we should give up an essential battle simply because of the associated aches and pains.

The safety standard glass ceiling is still firmly in place, and unless we understand a few crucial home truths it is never going to develop more than a few cracks.

Women in full time employment are on average paid less in the dollar than men now than we were 10 years ago. Only one in five board members in Australia are women. Women are given less sponsorship opportunities, have less access to informal promotion routes, and are in the minority when it comes to c-level positions.

Women face unconscious bias and accusations of gaining position by quota rather than merit. It’s not a pretty picture, and yes, there has been some progress, but it isn’t fast enough, and the Generation Y females coming through the ranks aren’t seeing enough to encourage them to take strong action in their own right.

So what is going to bash that layer of melted sand to bits?

We hold commissions and think tanks and enquiries and productivity studies. We talk a lot of talk, and argue bitterly about the issues we face.

Women who have made it to a certain level of success both in corporate and as entrepreneurs need to become far more proactive both in terms of sponsoring those on the way up the leadership ladder, and also in speaking out about their own terms of employment. The whole ‘it’s not nice to talk about money’ politeness needs to go out the window.

Have the discussion – talk about your salary with your workmates. Find out what others are being paid, and it may just uncover inequity. In this way change can occur because it becomes too public to ignore.

We also need to become far more ready to sponsor – not just mentor – younger women. Equally, we need to encourage men to sponsor younger women, rather than being complacent and allowing the ‘like sponsoring like’ situation to continue.

Again, this is about a vocal level that is currently not present. Be willing to speak up and out. The only way we are going to accelerate the rate of change is to raise our voices and our actions at the same time. One cannot be effective without the other.

Similarly it is about working in collaboration with men. One sex is not effective without the other in terms of truly making change happen. Instead of an argument about inequality, why can’t this be a discussion about equality? This can be turned on its head by sharing the journey with our male champions of change. We have already seen fantastic progress within the Australian Defence Force under the aegis of General David Morrison, AO, Chief of Army, and his senior officers, both male and female.

This is a perfect example of collaboration in action – as is the ADF taking on board and putting into practice the recommendations of Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

The glass ceiling, much like that sticky floor that has been plaguing even my best Jimmy Choos since I started in corporate many moons ago, is still there. It’s looking pretty smeary these days, and yes, there are some hairline cracks showing.

But if we want to swing a sledgehammer at it, then the more hands the better on the handle. And that means hands of all shapes, ages and sizes. And genders.

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