June 23, 2016

Often, female clients and colleagues ask what they could have done differently to break through the glass ceiling they struggled with earlier in their careers. Whether it’s equal pay or lack of promotion, some organizations still undervalue women in leadership. And that can be a hard culture to change. The facts as reported this spring by the American Association of University Women (AAUW):

• The pay gap – 79% – has barely budged in a decade. At this rate, the gap won’t close for more than 100 years.

• The pay gap is worse for women of color, worse for mothers, and grows with age.

• The pay gap means women struggle to pay off student loan debt more than men do.

• The pay gap is worse in some states than others, but is present in nearly every occupation.

So, there’s little doubt that many women’s frustrations are valid. The question now is… what can women do to find a career path that suits their ambitions, and recognizes and rewards their growth and success?

They can stay and invest their talent and energy trying to change the culture of an organization, which is a noble but possibly futile effort. Or they can move on and ahead with a culture that welcomes and rewards women in the workforce. To do so requires great candor:

• Do the research. Ask other women about where they’ve worked and what they know.

• Seek out mentors – female and male – who you believe support women in leadership.

• Interview wisely, asking direct questions about the culture and women in leadership. Listen carefully to the responses.

• Commit to your own success and ask for what you believe you are worth.

• Recognize when you’re spinning your wheels; be ok with moving on.

While it’s not an easy problem to solve, the glass ceiling doesn’t have to hang over your head for the duration of your career. Be candid with yourself about where the problem is, and whether or not you can solve it. If not, moving on may be in your best interest.