Hearing the audience's unified response was simultaneously validating and soul-crushing.
You see, I was giving a talk to a group of 200+ people—primarily women—titled Step into Your Power. The slide they were viewing showed a spectrum, with DOUBT at far left and CERTAINTY at far right. I asked the audience to (silently) guess which word best represented where they believed "women" were.
"When I count to 3, I want you to yell out your answer. 1 ... 2 ... 3!"
Not one single voice to the contrary.
A few seconds lapsed in deafening silence as we sat in the reality of the moment.
I've had the opportunity to work with, and coach, hundreds of women. Women who know their stuff—driven, smart, strong, capable women. And even the most successful know there is something preventing women from being their best selves. Nothing intentional. Nothing overt. Something subtle. Something very subtle and not easily defined.
We make sense of it by using the well-known phrase: "You know, The Glass Ceiling." And everyone gets it.
When I reflect on my own career and the glass ceilings I've encountered, I don't believe I was ever intentionally held back because I was a woman. I was held back because I acted like a woman. In a way I didn't understand at the time, I got in my own way.
I, indirectly, unintentionally, was the one preventing me from being great.
I often see the same thing with my clients.
Two ways women get in their own way:
- We are limited by our own INNER glass ceiling.
- We are playing by a different set of rules.
First: You have this menacing inner critic reminding you of all of your limitations, creating limiting beliefs. All internal dialogue. Then there is the shutting down of your intuition and the amping up—and giving attention to—your beloved "inner critic." That destructive self-talk. The constant self-editing.
Are you sure?
You don't want to sound too ...
You shouldn't say anything; you could be wrong.
Maybe you should just be quiet—let somebody else answer.
Your inner critic loves staying safe and sound, inside with a nice inner glass ceiling over its head. Break through the INNER glass ceiling—and breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling will be a non-event.
Second: There is the Pink and Blue concept. I knew this was an important concept when I had one of my biggest aha! moments; when I realized I didn't fit into either category—how can that be?—and found out I was striped! Yes! That resonated with me.
Lots of career women are on that lonely-not-exactly-fitting-in island of stripes, both pink and blue attributes. The Pink and Blue concept made so much sense to me and helped me immensely, especially in "conflict" situations. I've also seen this concept help clients work through and "fix" related issues. Not exactly coloring along gender lines, but certainly a loose correlation.
The translation: Blues want independence, Pinks want connection. Blues express through certainty, Pinks through doubt. This is HUGE. Opposites! No wonder we feel like we're speaking a different language!
What this means is that no matter how truly confident a woman is, she will most likely sound less confident than a male. She will unintentionally project "not confident"—especially when standing next to her male counterpart!
Yes, there is a glass ceiling. But I'm not convinced it is as thick and impenetrable as I initially believed.
As I've coached women into empowerment—due to unintended disempowerment—I have seen them soar! One hand clutching their new playbook, the other grabbing the next rung on the corporate ladder.
The bottom line: What this all means, ultimately, is break through these barriers and let your innate, authentic gifts, attributes, qualities and SELF shine.
Written by Heidi Frye, President of UPwords Inc. Heidi has spent her career making an impact on bottom-line business growth. Whether working with leaders, contributing to top-line sales revenue or helping organizations with talent acquisition, she is best known for her achievement orientation. Learn more at UPwords.