When I first decided to write a blog on the topic of whether the glass ceiling existed or not, I was under the belief that any time you “perceive” a barrier to success exists – it holds you back from achieving your full potential. As a woman who comes from a family of strong women, I have never believed that anything could hold me back from reaching whatever goals or dreams I had.
My drive to learn and grow probably naively pushed me thru obstacles that I didn’t know existed. By the time I was 27, I was the Chief Operating Officer of a precision machining company, whose customers were mostly semiconductor equipment manufacturers. Under my direction, we grew revenue from $12 million to $70 million in two-and-a-half years. I don’t think there are many more male- dominated fields than that! Subsequently, we sold the company to a private equity firm.
So, I went on a fact-finding mission and asked the question of my network of successful women entrepreneurs and CEOs. I was overwhelmed with the response and the emotion behind the topic. The conversation expanded from glass ceiling to gender bias, stereotyping, and our unique abilities as women and parents that are skills in our success. Here are some quotes:
• "Whoever coined the phrase was really savvy. They called it the “glass ceiling” to underscore its invisibility … so can we please stop arguing about whether it exists and simply focus on equipping women to move upward, whether obstacles exist or not." — Laura@Pistachio Fitton, Evangelist, Hubspot
• "The most effective way to get rid of the glass ceiling? Stop holding it up!"— Anonymous
• "One major focus for me as been to surround myself with advisors and supporters and people who believe in me. This has helped me stay on message and strong when you know you are being kept at the gate or point-blank being made fun of. When you have a vision coupled with passion, you innovate, change and shape all along until you get there!" — Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz, CEO, Next Stage Solutions
• "I think both the glass ceiling and gender bias are alive and well: the degree is a function of industry and geography. For women on the margin, I see a lot of 'life is too short' responses to these kinds of obstacles." — Anonymous
• "No glass ceiling, but to succeed you need to understand that people project their own models of gender onto you and it’s your job to navigate around that or prove them wrong." — Bettina Hein, Founder and CEO, Pixability
• "As women, we do and handle a lot. But it gives us a whole new skill set that men lack, such as efficiency, multitasking and let’s not forget our ability to lead and psychologically handle people. The problem I find is we do these things so often that we no longer see them as skills or anything of value. Hence, we don’t see our true value in what we bring to the table. We lack the confidence to ask for what we deserve as we don’t see these skills as special. We don’t play the BS game regarding our abilities either. We downplay ourselves consistently. I think this has really contributed to creating the glass ceiling." — Stella J. Karavas, CEO, Voltree Power
Whether you believe that the glass ceiling exists or not, it is our responsibility to help each other and future generations to reach their full potential regardless of gender or stereotype. As Laura, the Hubspot evangelist, put it: "Anyone standing around complaining that they can't do X because of Y, is, by definition, correct. But, they have been complicit in electing to let Y stand in their way. In my experience, entrepreneurs of every stripe are too busy running full speed at any and all obstacles to sit back and complain about the obstacle itself. What's coolest is that about half the time you run close enough to the obstacle and discover an unforeseen way around (or through) it. The other half of the time you smack into it, cry, dust yourself off and try another approach."
I look to role models such as my great-grandmother, who fought for the woman’s right to vote in 1920s, and I aspire to make a difference for future generations of woman. She didn’t believe in the glass ceiling. She worked hard, studied hard, used ingenuity and charm to break through many barriers. I also look to the role models quoted here in this blog – all successful women entrepreneurs and CEOs whose passion for this topic inspire me and give me hope that collectively we can pave the way for woman to be successful.
For women born today, hopefully the term “glass ceiling” gets added to the list of things they won’t know existed – like the 3.5-inch floppy, wired phones, paper maps, film cameras and dial up internet.
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