Shatter The Glass Ceiling – Don’t Just Break It
More than likely you have heard the term, The Glass Ceiling. Today it refers to the level in a business organization that females and minorities are not able to reach because of their sex or race. This “glass ceiling” cannot be seen but structurally exists. What is also important to understand is that the “glass ceiling” today has a different meaning than when it was first termed. Originally it referred only to women, based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed sexual discrimination in the workplace. However, it was an article by Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in the March 24, 1986 edition of the Wall Street Journal, that first mentioned the term, Glass Ceiling, to determine the recognition of the gender bias in Corporate America. Studies, statistics, data, aplenty prove that it exists…but why?
Some additional and more recent data concerning this was done in 2009. Hermina Ibarra and Morten Hansen in the December 21, 2009 Harvard Business Review, studied the leadership of the 2,000 of the world’s top performing companies, they found only 29 (1.5%) of those CEOs were women, an even smaller percentage than on the Fortune 500 Global list (2.5%). Only one woman, Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, made it to their top 100 CEOs list. In the U.S., women comprise 57% of all college students but only 26% of full professors and only 14% of University presidents. Despite being nearly 50% of law school graduates, women make up only 18% of law partners and only 25% of judges. Only 9.4% of jobs of Vice-President or higher are occupied by women according to a study completed by the Catalyst Corporation.
There are many reasons why this bias exists. In this four part series we will break it down into three areas that can help overcome gender bias and shatter the glass ceiling. Today we are going to overview the three:
1. The Exception Becomes the Perception 2. The Gender Quotient 3. Communication Differences of the Sexes.
1. The Exception Becomes the Perception
The X Principle or the 98/2 rule is what gives us the term The Exception Becomes the Perception. This means that 2% of a specific population can set the perception for the other 98%. This phenomenon can happen based on the direct observation of the physical behaviors and verbal communication of the 2% group. For instance, the 2% of the men who act like college frat boys when at a business networking event will end up affecting the opinion of the females in attendance, about all the other men in the room…or the other 98%. The actions of the few, affect the many.
At one time or another in our lives, most of us have been part of this dynamic. We have either made a generalization about a whole group, based on the actions of a few or we have been made as part of that group by someone else.
2. The Gender Quotient
We all know that our general intelligence is measured by IQ, (Intelligence Quotient) and over the last 20 years the term EQ, (Emotional Quotient) which really stands for Emotional Intelligence has become more well-known and accepted. This allows us to measure the intelligence of our own and other’s emotions and emotional reactions. Well, now we have GQ (Gender Quotient), which refers to Gender Intelligence. This is what we define as the emotional and intellectual understanding of the opposite sex. This understanding allows each of us to understand the psychological road map of what makes us men and women.
What is the importance of this to the Glass Ceiling that women face in the business world? Currently, the business world is dominated by men. Therefore, as a woman you it is important to understand that in order to navigate yourself to a higher level of achievement (break the glass ceiling) you must know the terrain in front of you. I am talking about how to form meaningful and powerful professional relationships with members of the opposite sex.
The better your understanding of the opposite sex, in terms of their priorities in decision making, relationship building and strategy, the more effective you can be at forming mutually beneficial relationships and gaining their respect. If, as a female, you can gain the respect of men for your knowledge and ability, despite whatever conscious or unconscious biases they may have to the female gender, the more successful you will become. Your GQ plays a significant role in helping you to achieve this.
3. Communication Differences of the Sexes
You already know that men and women communicate differently at the most basic level. This has been shown even in studies of elementary school children and younger, that the genders have different communication values. Boys like to communicate and build relationships through activities: playing with trucks, blocks, video games, etc. Girls like to communicate by just talking to each other or playing games that are “relationship building.” They do not have to have a defined purpose to the conversation, nor results needed. The conversation is the catalyst to the building of the relationship.
When we apply this to adults, it is pretty much the same. Men tend to communicate around activities: playing sports, watching sports, fixing things like cars and home issues or building things. Basically men don’t get together to have tea, wine or coffee and just talk. Not only do men hate the idea of that, but it actually scares them.
Don’t Break the Glass Ceiling, Shatter It
This is not a matter of degree. Meaning, you don’t want to try and break through the glass ceiling you want to shatter it so it no longer exists. The problem with “breaking through” is that your success is dependent on the thickness of the glass. If it is very thick, like the glass walls at Sea World, it will be very difficult to break. (The thicker the glass the stronger the bias you are dealing with.)
Shattering means, demolishing, so it no longer exists. If you show that you are not the same as the impression they may have of the rest of your gender, if you understand how men work and know how to build strong relationships with them, if you are able to see the world through their eyes and if you are able to communicate effectively with men so they feel comfortable with you, like you are one of them, there will be no glass ceiling. (Okay, that is a lot of “ifs” but you can do it.) Make the glass ceiling disappear, don’t try to “break it.” By making it disappear in the mind of some men means that you have wiped out the biases. Those men will then help you shatter it in the minds of other men.
Easier Said than Done
I am not going to tell you this is easy. You are dealing with the male ego here. This ego is more than likely the major factor that the glass ceiling exists. I would recommend looking at this from the opposite point of view. If women were the dominant force in the business world, since the beginning of time, what would the glass ceiling look like for men? You can’t tell me it wouldn’t exist. It would, it is just how would it be different and what advice might a woman give to a man to shatter their glass ceiling?
We have social, cultural, behavioral and psychological, issues around this. If we start with basics of communication, understanding and perception…we can make a big difference in a short amount of time.
Quick Tips on Shattering the Glass Ceiling
1. Exception Becomes the Perception
• Know that biases are out there based on what other women have done and are doing. • Show that you are not one of them, through your actions and worlds. • Help those women stop hurting their own reputation. • Hang out with the right crowds.
2. Increasing Your GQ (Gender Quotient aka, Gender Intelligence)
• Know what makes men Tick: Sports, Sex, Beer, Cars…actually…EGO • Learn how and when to stroke their Ego • Don’t be a man, be a woman in the man’s world. Accept them, don’t judge. • Understand how they think and give them the time they need to do so.
3. Becoming a Male Gender Communicator
• Start with the end explained. • Talk in a logical and linear order. (Think Dr. Spock) • In business, use business terms that are results oriented. • Don’t wander. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Frank J. De Raffele Jr. is the Founder & President of Entrepreneurial Excellence Worldwide, Inc. He is the Co-Author of the #1 Best Seller, Business Networking and Sex: Not what you think., and he speaks to entrepreneurs, franchise owners and corporations around the world.