Featured image for part 2 of 3 part series of "Stuck between Glass Ceiling and Glass Cliff: Tips for Women"

Stuck between Glass Ceiling and Glass Cliff: Tips for Women

Stuck between Glass Ceiling and Glass Cliff: Tips for Women

In our first of a three-part series we looked into what glass ceilings and glass cliffs are, at some stats, what challenges they pose and how they impact women and employers. In our second part, we focus on practical strategies and tactics for women to navigate and overcome the challenges posed by the glass ceiling and the glass cliff, including tips for building resilience, cultivating leadership skills, seeking mentorship and sponsorship, negotiating effectively, and advocating for oneself in the workplace.

In our previous installment, we dove into the complex challenges posed by glass ceilings and glass cliffs for women in the workplace. We examined how these barriers hinder women’s career progression, limit their opportunities for advancement, and perpetuate gender inequalities in leadership. From the invisible constraints of the glass ceiling to the precarious positions of the glass cliff, women face a myriad of obstacles that impact their professional trajectories and well-being.

We also explored the tangible effects of these barriers, including stalled progression, heightened vulnerability to failure, and the emotional toll of navigating systemic biases and discrimination. These effects not only hinder women’s individual career aspirations but also have broader implications for organizational performance and gender equality in the workplace. In short: it is not just the women suffering from the effects.

Now, we will share tips on how to address these effects and mitigate the barriers that hinder women’s success. Let’s explore practical strategies and tactics how women can empower themselves to navigate and overcome the challenges posed by the glass ceiling and the glass cliff, and to pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable future. After all, we should all try to be Rapunzulas 😉

Keep reading or jump directly to the section of most interest to you:

Tips to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

Yes, glass ceilings are unfair, annoying, and incredibly old-fashioned – but by incorporating the following strategies into your daily life, you can fortify yourself against the obstacles posed by glass ceilings you may encounter in your career journey.

Teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings.”
Melissa Marchonna
Digital Marketer for the New York Jets

Tip 1: Building Resilience

Resilience is a crucial trait for navigating challenges, be it in your private life or in the workplace. This is particularly true in the face of the glass ceiling and the glass cliff. Building resilience involves developing the ability to adapt to adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and thrive in the face of change regardless of the challenge thrown your way. Here are some strategies to cultivate resilience:

Develop a Growth Mindset: Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Adopt a mindset focused on continuous improvement and resilience in the face of setbacks.

Learn from Setbacks: Embrace failure full stop. They are nothing more than an opportunity for growth and learning. Reflect on setbacks, extract lessons learned, and use them to inform future decisions and actions. Setbacks will make you better, so why not embrace them?

Practice Self-Care: This is probably one of the most important things to do. Prioritize self-care and well-being to recharge and rejuvenate. Make time for activities that nourish your body, mind, and soul, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies. Self-care will improve your self-esteem and your peace of mind, both things you cannot succeed without.

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence: Develop self-awareness and emotional regulation skills to manage stress, cope with difficult emotions, and maintain perspective even when faced with truly harrowing situations.

Seek Support: Lean on your support network for guidance, encouragement, and perspective. Surround yourself with positive influences and seek out mentors, friends, and colleagues who can offer support and advice.

Stay Flexible: Adapt to changing circumstances and embrace uncertainty with flexibility and resilience. Cultivate a mindset of adaptability and openness to new experiences and challenges. See challenges as exactly as the word says: a kind of treasure hunt for the right solution. Remember, that every new experience adds something to your knowledge, as long as you take learnings from everything you can.

Tip 2: Cultivating Leadership Skills

Effective leadership skills are crucial for navigating the complexities of the workplace and advancing your career. Hone key competencies such as communication, decision-making, and strategic thinking, to position yourself as a capable and confident leader. Here are some tips to cultivate and develop these essential skills:

Communication: Practice active listening, empathy, and clarity in your communication. Tailor your message to your audience – is it a team member, colleague, or senior executive? Seek feedback on your communication style to understand what and how you need to adapt.

Decision-Making: Develop a systematic approach to decision-making. Consider all available information, weigh the pros and cons, and evaluate potential outcomes. Trust your instincts and seek input from others when making important decisions.

Strategic Thinking: Think critically and analytically about complex problems and opportunities. Take a long-term view of your career and goals, identifying strategic priorities and aligning your actions accordingly. Look for innovative solutions and creative approaches to challenges. And there is another aspect to look into in terms of your career, not just your current job: are you truly in the right place to advance your career?

To further enhance your leadership skills, take advantage of opportunities for leadership development and skill-building. Participate in workshops, seminars, and if possible in training programs focused on leadership competencies. Engage in experiential learning opportunities such as project management, cross-functional collaborations, and leadership roles. By investing in your development as a leader, you can position yourself for success and your career, and make meaningful contributions to your organization and beyond.

Tip 3: Seeking Mentorship and Sponsorship

Mentorship and sponsorship play crucial roles in supporting women’s career development and advancement, providing guidance, support, and advocacy along the way. Mentorship involves a trusted advisor who offers advice, feedback, and perspective based on their own experiences. Sponsors, on the other hand, actively advocate for their protégés, leveraging their influence and networks to create opportunities for advancement and visibility. Here are some strategies for identifying and cultivating relationships with mentors and sponsors:

Clarify Your Goals: Define your career aspirations and goals, identifying areas where mentorship and sponsorship could be beneficial. Be proactive in seeking out individuals who possess the knowledge, skills, and experience you seek.

Network Strategically: Attend conferences, industry events, and networking opportunities to connect with potential mentors and sponsors. Cultivate genuine relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and shared interests.

Be Proactive: Take initiative in seeking out mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. Approach potential mentors and sponsors with a clear and compelling case for why you would value their guidance and support.

Seek Diverse Perspectives: Look for mentors and sponsors who offer diverse perspectives and insights, including individuals from different backgrounds, industries, and levels of experience. Each unique viewpoint might be helpful.

Build Trust and Rapport: Invest time and effort in building authentic relationships with your mentors and sponsors. Demonstrate your commitment to learning and growth, and show appreciation for their time and expertise.

Communicate Your Needs: Clearly articulate your goals, expectations, and needs to potential mentors and sponsors. Be open to feedback and guidance.

Seek Feedback: Actively solicit feedback and be open to constructive criticism and advice. Take time for some honest self-reflection and use their insights to guide your personal and professional development.

Show Gratitude: Express gratitude and appreciation for the time, support, and guidance provided by mentors and sponsors. Keep them updated on your progress and successes.

Pay It Forward: As you progress in your career, consider paying it forward by mentoring others and advocating for their advancement. Share your knowledge, experience, and insights to support the next generation of leaders by being a mentor or sponsor yourself.

Tip 4: Negotiating Effectively

Effective negotiation skills are essential when advocating for yourself and to help advance your career. Whether you are negotiating promotions, salary, or other opportunities for advancement, it is crucial to approach negotiations with confidence, preparation, and strategy. Here are some tips to negotiate effectively:

Know Your Worth: Research industry standards and benchmarks for salaries and benefits to determine your market value. Consider your skills, experience, and contributions to the organization when assessing your worth. Consult some male peers on what they perceive as their worth and why. Studies have shown that female candidates tend to think they need to fulfill 100% of requirements to apply for a position or ask for a promotion, while their male peers start applying/asking when 50% onwards is fulfilled.

A typically Swiss example is the level of French as told to the author by several recruiters: females who understand most and are fluent enough will say their French is at best “ok”, while most male counterparts will say they can speak French well even when only able to use basic phrases and being able to … order a beer 😊

Prepare Thoroughly: Anticipate potential objections and counterarguments from the other party, and prepare persuasive arguments and evidence to support your position. Wherever possible, built these solutions into your very first argument to avoid people even having to come up with their objections. It is still a good idea to practice your negotiation pitch and responses to common questions or objections.

Set Clear Goals: Define your objectives and desired outcomes for the negotiation, including your ideal salary, benefits, or terms of promotion. Establish a range or target figure to guide your negotiation strategy.

Listen Actively: Listen carefully to the other party’s perspective and concerns, and seek to understand their priorities and interests. Look for opportunities to find common ground and explore mutually beneficial solutions.

Be Assertive: Advocate for yourself confidently and assertively, articulating your value proposition and advocating for what you deserve. Use assertive language and body language to convey confidence and conviction in your negotiation.

Stay Flexible: Always aim for a win-win. Be open to compromise and creative solutions that meet both parties’ needs. Look for opportunities to expand the negotiation pie and create value for both sides.

Follow Up: Document the terms and agreements reached during the negotiation, and follow up with a written confirmation or contract. Maintain open communication with the other party to ensure that both parties fulfill their commitments.

Tip 5: Building a Strong Support Network

A strong support network is immensely helpful when navigating the challenges of the workplace and advancing your career. Are you facing obstacles, seeking guidance, or celebrating successes? A network of mentors, allies, and peers can provide invaluable support and perspective. Here are some tips for building and maintaining a strong support network:

Identify Your Allies: Identify individuals within your organization and industry who share your values, goals, and interests. These allies can provide support, advocacy, and camaraderie as you navigate the ups and downs of your career.

Network Effectively: Attend industry conferences, events, and other networking opportunities to expand your professional network and connect with like-minded individuals. Be proactive in initiating conversations and building relationships, and follow up with contacts to maintain connections. Connect other people together to have one help solve the challenges the other one is facing – the gratefulness can go a long way once you need help. Cultivate genuine relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and shared goals.

Offer Support in Return: You yourself should be willing to offer support and assistance instead of just expecting it from your network. Actively listen to their concerns, offer advice and guidance when appropriate, and celebrate their successes and yours together.

Stay Connected: Maintain regular communication with your network through emails, phone calls, and meetings. Seek their advice on important decisions, and offer your assistance whenever possible.

Join Professional Groups: Participate in professional organizations, industry associations, and online communities related to your field. These groups offer opportunities for networking, collaboration, and knowledge sharing with peers and colleagues.

Be Genuine and Authentic: Build relationships based on authenticity, trust, and reciprocity. Be genuine in your interactions, show empathy and understanding, and be willing to share your own experiences and vulnerabilities.

Tip 6: Embracing Risk-Taking and Experimentation

It is almost impossible to avoid risk-taking and experimentation if you are driving career advancement and personal growth. In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, the ability to step outside of comfort zones, seize opportunities as they present themselves, and learn from failure is crucial for staying agile and adaptable. Here are some tips for embracing risk-taking and experimentation:

Challenge Your Comfort Zone: Identify areas where you feel comfortable and familiar, and actively seek out opportunities to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Volunteer for challenging assignments, take on new responsibilities, and pursue opportunities for growth and development. If you feel emotionally stressed out by a challenge, reflect on where you stand – the fear zone? If so, calmly think of ways to get back into the growth zone and later back into the comfort zone. Baby steps are ok, it is not a race.

Seize Opportunities: Keep an eye out for opportunities that align with your interests, goals, and values. Be proactive in seeking out new experiences, projects, and collaborations that offer opportunities for learning, growth, and advancement.

Learn from Failure: Embrace failure as a natural part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth. Reflect on past failures and setbacks, extract valuable lessons learned, and apply them to future endeavors. Cultivate a growth mindset that views failure as a stepping stone to success.

Take Calculated Risks: Assess potential risks as well as rewards of new opportunities and ventures. Make informed decisions based on careful consideration and analysis. Be willing to take calculated risks that offer the potential for growth and innovation, while minimizing potential negative outcomes.

Experiment and Iterate: Approach your career with a spirit of experimentation and iteration, continuously testing new ideas, approaches, and strategies. Be open to feedback and insights from others, and iterate on your approaches based on what works and what does not.

Seek Support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of allies who can offer guidance, encouragement, and perspective as you navigate risks and challenges.

Tips to Pave the Glass Cliff

While the glass ceiling is a well-documented barrier to women’s advancement in the workplace, the glass cliff presents its own unique set of challenges. From being thrust into precarious leadership positions during times of crisis to facing heightened scrutiny and expectations, women often find themselves on the edge of the metaphorical cliff, navigating uncertain terrain with resilience and determination.

When there's that moment of 'Wow, I'm not really sure I can do this,' and you push through those moments, that's when you have a breakthrough.
Marissa Ann Mayer
Former CEO of Yahoo

Now, we share tips for overcoming this formidable obstacle.

Understand the Context: Take the time to assess the circumstances surrounding your appointment to a leadership role. Understanding the context and reasons behind the decision can help you navigate the challenges more effectively.

Seek Support and Mentorship: Surround yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, mentors, and allies who can provide guidance, encouragement, and perspective. Lean on their support and insights as you navigate the challenges of the glass cliff.

Communicate Effectively: Communicate openly and transparently with your team and stakeholders about your vision, goals, and strategies. Foster a culture of collaboration, trust, and accountability to rally support and engagement.

Build Resilience: Develop resilience to cope with the heightened pressure and scrutiny that tend to accompany leadership roles on the glass cliff. Focus on maintaining a positive mindset, managing stress effectively, and seeking support from colleagues and mentors. Plan some time slots for self-care.

Leverage Your Strengths: Recognize and leverage your unique strengths and skills as a leader. Emphasize your expertise, experience, and ability to drive positive change in challenging situations.

Develop Adaptive Leadership Skills: Cultivate adaptive leadership skills that allow you to navigate uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity effectively. Embrace agility, flexibility, and creativity in your approach to leadership.

Embrace Diversity of Thought: Foster an inclusive environment that values diversity of thought, perspectives, and experiences. Embrace diverse viewpoints and leverage the collective intelligence of your team to drive innovation and success.

Seek Feedback: Actively seek feedback from colleagues, peers, and stakeholders to gain insights into your performance and areas for improvement. Use this feedback to refine your approach and enhance your effectiveness as a leader.

Advocate for Yourself: Advocate for yourself and your team, ensuring that your contributions and achievements are recognized and valued. Articulate your vision, goals, and priorities clearly, and seek opportunities to showcase your leadership abilities.

Focus on Results: Stay focused on achieving tangible results and driving performance improvements in your leadership role. Demonstrate your competence and effectiveness through your actions and outcomes.

Celebrate Successes: Take time to celebrate successes and milestones, both big and small, along your leadership journey. Celebrating achievements boosts morale, fosters team cohesion, and reinforces a culture of positivity and achievement.

Stay Authentic: Remain true to yourself and your values as you navigate the challenges of the glass cliff. Authenticity fosters trust and credibility, both crucial elements for effective leadership in challenging situations.

Learn from Setbacks: Embrace failure as an opportunity for learning and growth. Reflect on setbacks and challenges, extract valuable lessons learned, and use them to inform your future decisions and actions.

Do not Be Afraid to Say No: Recognize that it is okay to decline opportunities that may not align with your values, goals, or capabilities. Trust your instincts and assert your boundaries – especially in situations where failure is almost guaranteed or where you feel like you are being set up to fail. Prioritize your well-being and professional integrity by making informed decisions about the opportunities you pursue.

Go Shatter That Glass!

In the journey of navigating the glass ceiling or the glass cliff, it is crucial to advocate for yourself, seek opportunities for growth, and remain resilient in the face of challenges. When overlooked for a promotion or opportunity, do not hesitate to ask questions to understand the reasoning behind the decision and gain insights into the perspective of decision-makers. This dialogue can provide valuable feedback and guide your future career trajectory.

However, it is also important not to get discouraged by setbacks and obstacles along the way. Every experience, whether positive or negative, offers an opportunity for growth and learning. By embracing resilience and perseverance, you can overcome barriers and continue to progress toward your career goals. Moreover, there may even come a time when it is necessary to reassess your career path and consider the opportunities in environments that value diversity, inclusion, and equity. Finding a workplace culture that aligns with your values and fosters a supportive environment can be instrumental in flourishing in your career journey.

A woman is like a tea bag: you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.
Eleanor Roosevelt

As you navigate the complexities of the workplace, remember this:

Stay true to yourself,

remain open to new opportunities and experiences,

and advocate for your worth and potential.

With determination, resilience, and a supportive network by your side, you can shatter ceilings, pave cliffs, and achieve your aspirations in the ever-evolving landscape of the professional world. Be it in your current workplace or another one 😉.

ChatGPT kindly offered some additional tips and views.

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