The glass ceiling, a daunting 1980’s metaphor, that conjures up depressing and paralyzing feelings for women in the workplace.  Yet, more than 35 years since it’s coining, it still exists.  Why?

At age 32, I have achieved my career goals to date, have worked through the ranks of middle management, but for some reason, I somehow feel dissatisfied.  With the glass ceiling in mind, I looked myself in the metaphorical glassy mirror for some answers.  My mind races with several questions:

1.       I just had a child.  Maybe it is being torn between being a mother and a career woman?

2.       I work with a lot of senior leadership teams that are largely male.  Maybe it is hard to see myself climbing to the top of an organization?

3.       When working with men, I often feel inferior despite having equal or better skills.  Maybe I am not as self-aware and confident as I could be?

The first two questions are typical rationale for the glass ceiling.  I quickly dismiss them.  Not because I do not value motherhood, and not because the c-suite is inviting.  Both of those statements are false.  But, the third question strikes a chord.  With the theme of reflection, I dig a little deeper.  I realize the obvious.  During my career, I have realized the importance of self-awareness and confidence, but I need to better understand my passions, what I do well, and how I am different.

As I discuss my reflection with other mid-career women, I begin to hear similar themes.  “I do not feel passionate about what I do”, “I know I can do more than what I do now – but am not sure how to get there”, “I should not have to promote myself to get what I deserve”.  These similar themes lead me to believe that this is more universal.  If women are successful enough to advance to middle manager roles, what is that holds us back from breaking through the glass ceiling?

Rather than focus on the dreadful glass ceiling, let’s use it to our advantage.  Before we can understand what makes us happy and move forward full speed ahead move forward, we need to take a step back and reflect.

In the spirit of self-discovery, I asked myself a set of questions that proved to be very helpful in in better understanding my unique reflection.

•         What professional topics or activities do I enjoy spending time on outside of work?

•         What are the top five words that my peers, friends, and colleagues would use to describe me?

•         What would my past and present managers consistently say I do better than my peers?

These questions just begin the journey of self-exploration.  I suggest that women reflect deeply on their passions, natural strengths, and unique capabilities.  Ask trusted advisors and those that know you best.

Once you have an improved self-awareness, the next step is to ask for what you want.

Contributed by: Julie Kratz

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