Breaking Through The Glass Ceiling

The glass ceiling is the invisible barrier which is seen as preventing many women from assuming senior management and leadership positions in organisations. 

The real glass ceiling is in your belief systems. 

I’m not saying there are not external barriers that make it more difficult for women to get ahead in some organisations, there are, I’ve seen them and I’ve also worked with many female clients who’ve had to deal with them. However, what I can say is that the biggest changes in the future are going to come from those women who have done the self-work to overcome their own inner doubts and fears. Men (and other women) will quite simply have to respond to them. 

No matter what challenges you have to face, overcoming the inner challenges comes first.

My mentor Alan Weiss says it succinctly: The first sale is ALWAYS to yourself.

I worked with a woman who’d recently won a senior management role, and was having trouble with a strong male who was undermining her and bypassing her. Within a few minutes of talking with her it became clear that she still saw herself at the previous level in the department where she had expertise. She doubted her own ability. 

The challenge for all of us when we decide to move up to the next level is to decide to be that; to decide to be at that new level and commit to it.  So my first question to many clients when I see this is: Do you really want to do this, or not? Because if you do, then you need to decide to be there and go for it! 

This lady did want to go for it, so I taught her the tapping, and we immediately started to apply it to her self-doubts and primitive fear reactions, initially over having to confront this dominant alpha male in the senior team who was not showing her respect. We focused the tapping on his dismissive, disrespectful behaviour and her inner reactions to it. Once these feelings shifted, she was able to confront his behaviour and lo and behold he immediately started to behave more appropriately.

Even more, from the moment she made the internal decision to take on board the new role, she started to act more like someone befitting the role. She shifted her office over to where all the other senior managers were located, and also started to gain traction in the areas of the business where she’d previously not developed as much expertise. i.e. Getting outside of her comfort zone. 

In our most recent session, we started to work on having her think more strategically, and put her ideas forward to the senior management group, an area which she hasn’t seen as a strength. I began by asking how she saw the senior group: Turns out she saw them as being brilliant men who she felt privileged to be around. Well that unfortunately puts her below them and also creates a tendency to idealise them and their positions. We had to bring them down to size so she could see them more neutrally, and we were able to do this with two emotion management techniques.

The next step was to look at how to increase the likelihood of having her ideas accepted, and immunise her against the fear of having her ideas rejected. Overcoming this fear is often fairly straightforward: Simply focus on the idea of putting your ideas forward and working on the inner reactions that come straight up! Then, applying these techniques to any past negative experiences where your ideas were rejected or where you learned to hold back, thus gaining the freedom to go forward without having to be held back by those past memories. 

Here’s another distinction: When you see yourself below others, putting your ideas forward is one way of seeking acceptance from them. In this case the idea is no longer just an idea, it represents your value. If this is you, then you need to detach your identity and self-worth from your ideas. Traditionally, men have been better able to do this than women, often saying things like “It’s not personal.” 

Where you have tended to take things more personally, tapping can help you to detach from this, leaving you freer to look at the ideas value separate to what their acceptance might gain for you or their rejection might cause for you. Try tapping on “My ideas equal my value” and also ask where you learned this BS (Belief System). 

Finally, I want to mention something my good friend Rachel Green reminded me of in one of her recent articles: Networking and relationships is essential to progress, and who you network with is most important. It is crucial for women to have internal networks (i.e. within the organisation, not just outside it), and in particular, women need to be willing to network with men, as well as other women. And for the men: We need to invite women into our networks.