Yes, it is a glass ceiling with some cracks, but it is not shattered! The business world has not yet embraced women and diversity in the C-suite, nor in the boardroom, nor in any industry to date. Twenty years later, we are still explaining the persistence of that glass ceiling.
Nationally, in the boardroom female representation is 17.9%. In Maryland, Virginia, and the District, women hold 14% of the board positions at publicly traded companies. When you look at these boards, you will see a cadre of retired male executives. According to Women in Technology, a nonprofit group in Falls Church, VA, 25% of the 250 publicly traded companies in the DC region do not have women on their boards.
Changing the status quo is still a very slow process. That glass ceiling is a barrier so “subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy”. From their vantage point on the corporate ladder, women can see the high-level corporate positions but are kept from reaching the top.
As for the boardroom, corporate boards do not have term limits or age restrictions, which mean members often remain in board positions for years, if not decades. And when a spot does open up, executives generally fill it with their peers, who just happen to be white males. In the C-suite, as well as in the boardroom, the number-one limiting belief is that they don’t know (or recognize) many women who are qualified or board-ready, or who are perceived as “leaders” in the C-suite.
But they’re out there. You just don’t – or won’t – see them.
Women’s abilities are more harshly judged than men. Holding women to higher standards and evaluating female leaders and prospective board members more critically than their male counterparts is common practice.
While overt discrimination seems to be on the way out of organizations, subtle gender discrimination still exists and accounts for so few significant cracks in the glass ceiling. Such discrimination, mostly exemplified in cultural norms, is so entrenched in some organizations that it is difficult to detect, and only incremental steps aimed at changing bias can chip away at the barriers that keep women from moving into senior levels and the boardroom.
Companies that succeed in changing the gender dynamic have major initiatives such as training programs for valuing gender diversity; changing recruiting patterns to eliminate bias, and setting specific succession goals that include women in senior positions. In other words, these companies walk their talk and make gender diversity part of their culture all the way into the boardroom.
If we are to see significant changes within leadership, organizations must create and implement executive development programs that include issues addressing gender diversity and transformational leadership in order to change preconceived ideas, bias, and assumptions about women’s abilities to lead.
And then, just maybe that glass ceiling will be shattered!
Last week, my firm, Aspire Ascend, held its first in a series of Remarkable Woman Luncheons. Our first speaker was Susan Ann Davis, a “remarkable woman” with an inspirational story and a speaking style that draws you in….and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better to initiate this series.
Susan is a pioneer who opened her own public relations agency when few women were experiencing success in the business world, and fewer still owned their own businesses. It has grown into a global organization with major international clients, and Susan has ¬¬emerged as one of the most influential people (man or woman) in her field.
Among the sold-out audience were senior-level executives, an ambassador, a congresswoman, and entrepreneurs -- all remarkable women themselves. They came to hear Susan share her story, and she came because she lives the philosophy that women help women.
Every attendee agreed that Susan was engaging, funny, and down-to-earth as well as remaining an entrepreneur of global business. But her message was serious: believe in yourself, build a support network, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. I like those words!
These are great guidelines for all women, but they are particularly important for those of us who are already in leadership.
At a time when we may very well see the first woman President of the United States, we still hear stories of accomplished, well-qualified women being passed over for positions or promotions even when they have the same experience and qualifications as men. And, when women make it to the c-suite, build a successful enterprise, or are elected to office, they are held to a different -- and often ridiculously higher -- standard than men.
Susan has lived through all of it in her rise to the top, and she shared her story -- no, make that stories -- with the group. Her anecdotes were both cheerful and tearful, and I saw many in the room taking notes from this true role model.
The diversity of women in the room confirmed my long-held belief that one of the most important elements of any network (but especially women’s networks) is diversity. We put limits on both our network and what we can learn from them if we don’t make our “circle of influence” as wide as possible.
One of the themes I heard, both in Susan’s comments and in the numerous conversations among attendees, was the importance (and I’m paraphrasing here) of “doing less and networking more.” To me, it’s the difference between meeting short-term goals or building a career…and taking the reins of leadership in whatever endeavor you pursue.
This message resonated with me since I frequently find myself advising clients to “keep their heads up” and build relationships instead of “keeping their heads down” and passing up on the events and programs where you can meet more “influencers.” That will help you find new avenues for business success, career advancement, and greater self-fulfillment.
I was pleased to see that women who had just met were making plans to follow up and meet again, and exchanging business cards, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses as they left the luncheon together.
One attendee told me as she was leaving, “It was great to meet other successful and enthusiastic women. We spend so much time working on business objectives, we don’t often get the chance to work on our own objectives.”
It’s good for women -- at whatever stage of their careers -- to hear from other women who are willing to share their stories. We learn that no dream is too big and that support is there when you ask for it. That’s the ultimate message…. And that’s why I’m proud that Aspire Ascend will continue to provide membership and a forum for discussion and support -- where women support other women!
Take a look at the photos from the Remarkable Woman lunch here
Aspire Ascend is a global service provider and a member-based organization providing a comprehensive portfolio of career-building services to enhance the success of women in leadership positions. It helps executive women meet the challenges of career advancement and make an impact in the C-suite.
Washington, DC, September 15, 2016 – “Women are underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, with the greatest disparity at senior levels of leadership,” according to Jan Molino, CEO and Managing Partner of Aspire Ascend. In Filling the Leadership Pipeline with Women, a free e-book just published by the firm, she offers senior women in the workplace common-sense ways to take charge of their careers in what continues to be a male-dominated environment.
The e-book advises women on how to help themselves and their organizations’ with strategies for gender equity in the workplace.
Ms. Molino shares the knowledge gained over more than 20 years as a senior executive and counselor to c-suites and both corporate and non-profit boards. She has worked with numerous executive women, counseling them on how to cross the threshold into the c-suite, and she shares that knowledge and experience with readers.
"When we make the corporate ladder more accessible to women, we incorporate fresh thinking, new perspectives and a more inclusive outlook into an organization’s culture,” says Molino.
The book also shines a light on the need for organizations to recognize that true gender equity – not just lip service – is needed for women to rise into the leadership ranks. Ms. Molino suggests ways in which organizations can build cultures that encourage, support, and recognize the success of women as they take on greater responsibilities and move toward leadership positions.
“Organizations need to build conviction that what is good for women will be good for men, as well as for the entire enterprise,” says Molino.
The free e-book, “Filling the Leadership Pipelines with Women,” is available to download here.
Aspire Ascend is a global service provider and a member-based organization providing a comprehensive portfolio of career building services to enhance the success of women in leadership positions. It helps executive women meet the challenges of career advancement and make an impact in the C-suite.
I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Finding Success Through Relationships, one of the “Women Taking the Lead” series. The host, Jodi Flynn, asked me what put me on the path that eventually led to me start my own firm.
It wasn’t until she asked that question that I really thought about what motivated me and what held me back in the early days of my career, and what kind of support I received that helped me overcome barriers to success; those that were imposed on me and those that I created myself.
I realized that I lacked confidence after turning down an opportunity to relocate and run my own team. I was afraid to take a chance on myself. But, I was fortunate enough to have a boss who believed in me and offered his support. He told me to advise him of my next opportunity because he thought I was ready to move up. His confidence in me gave me confidence in myself. When the next chance for advancement came, I was able to summon the inner strength to say “yes.”
One of the best pieces of advice I now give to women who ask me how I got started on my path is, “get a mentor.” Find someone who recognizes your talents and is willing to be supportive, to help you navigate the minefields that lie between where you are and where you want to be.
My experience as the guest on that podcast reminded me that no one makes it on her own.
Jodi Flynn and I covered a lot of ground in 20 or so minutes and I want to share that information with you in the hope that it might give you perspective and maybe even some ideas about how to move your career forward.
Here’s the link to the podcast: https://womentakingthelead.com/151
Almost lost amidst last week’s political circus, international terrorist strikes and stock market ups and downs, a brief but significant ceremony was held in Boston’s State House when the Commonwealth’s Governor, Charlie Baker, signed into law a pay equity act. A key provision of which will prevent employers from requiring prospective employees to say how much they made at their last job.
This is significant because it will help women break out of the cycle of low or inequitable salaries when compared to men who do the same work.
This is not a concept divided along political lines. The act, now law, had bi-partisan support. It was sponsored by a Democrat state senator and signed by a Republican governor. Massachusetts now joins California, New York and Maryland, states that passed similar legislation last year, and a number of other states with such laws on the books.
Sentiment is growing nationally for this kind of support for pay equity. A 2014 survey commissioned by American Women, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the Rockefeller Family Fund, shows broad majorities of likely voters favor public policies that help families and women get ahead. The poll results also show that voters are more likely to support a candidate who is in favor of policies, such as a higher minimum wage, fair pay for women, paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave.
It is fair to say that pay equity and other concepts supportive of workplace gender equality are gaining traction among most Americans and moving politicians to act. So, can we expect an avalanche of legislation favoring workplace gender balance – especially with the prospect of a woman in the White House? Possibly…maybe even probably.
But, why wait?
We women already have legislation – and a growing number of legislators – on our side (more correctly, on the side of doing the right thing…this is not just a “women’s issue”*).
I have been helping women position themselves for leadership and supporting their efforts in a fight for workplace equality for years, and have seen some remarkable women seek out mentors and sponsors who can help them reach their aspirations. They didn’t need laws and legislation…and neither does any women.
We all have the moral courage to act in our own best interests when negotiating compensation or seeking support for moving along our career paths. No question, legislation helps…but we really don’t need it.
The kind of support now growing in state legislatures and on the federal level should provide encouragement for any woman who has been hesitant to push back in a job interview when the question of “salary history” comes up to now assert herself; to recognize how answering that question hampers her negotiating position.
There is no question that favorable legislation provides “political cover” for women in the workplace. In this political season, we should thank the legislators – men and women – who are willing to step out front to push gender equity legislation, and in some cases, jeopardize political careers, and who shine a light on the need for greater gender balance. They provide women with the legislative and regulatory support needed to move their careers forward.
*About half of all workers (51 percent of women and 47 percent of men) report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment. Most government agencies have formal grade and step systems that make general wage and salary information public (only 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the public sector report discouragement or prohibition of wage and salary discussions). - See more at:http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/pay-secrecy-and-wage-discrimination-1#sthash.EEZ28VD7.dpuf
The Wine, Women, & Knowledge Networking event will launch on November 16, 2016 and feature Allison Shapira, founder and President, Global Public Speaking LLC.
Allison is a former opera singer who teaches public speaking and presentation skills at the Harvard Kennedy School and develops training programs for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits around the world. She has worked with elected officials, military veterans, businessmen and women, diplomats, nonprofit leaders, and entrepreneurs.
Allison helps people speak with confidence, network with authenticity, and handle difficult questions. She is also a TEDx speaker and songwriter who speaks and performs worldwide, using music as a way to help others find their voice and their courage to speak. Allison also travels around the world with the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership and with the US Department of State, teaching public speaking as a way to help women leaders find their voice and their confidence to speak. She has taught training programs in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Italian language from Boston University, a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and is a member of the National Speakers Association. She speaks Italian and Hebrew and has studied 8 other languages. She lives in Washington, DC and works with clients around the world.
Wine, Women, Knowledge (WWK) Networks are valuable Aspire Ascend networking opportunities where you can connect with fellow Aspire Ascend members or meet other women leaders like you.
To learn more about the "Wine, Women, and Knowledge Networking" series and events, click here
To become a member, click here
The "Remarkable Woman" series will launch on October 26, 2016 and feature Susan Ann Davis, Chairman of Susan Davis International, a global strategic communications consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 74 agency partners worldwide. She is internationally known for her expertise in reputation management, market entry and expansion, crisis and cyber risk, communications, and public affairs.
Davis is also a consultant and thought leader on issues and opportunities related to the business of smart aging, annually co-chairing the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit and the “What’s Next” Boomer Business Summit. She spearheaded the Global Irish Forum’s recommendations for Ireland developing as a global hub for smart aging technologies, design, products, and services, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Irish Smart Ageing Exchange.
A lifelong advocate for social entrepreneurship, democracy building and leadership development for women, she is the board chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, the preeminent NGO begun by Hillary Clinton supporting 15,000 emerging women leaders in 144 countries.
Additionally, she chaired the landmark U.S. Ireland Business Summit, creating the groundbreaking U.S.-Ireland R&D Partnership, and is board chair of The Irish Breakfast Club, co-chair of the Washington Ireland Program Trustees Council, and a member of ITLG Womens Leadership Group. Davis is also board chair for the Zabuli School for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The "Remarkable Woman" series focuses on women’s achievement and challenges, the very issues executive women face every day.
Each luncheon provides an engaging forum for professional women to come together and enjoy a memorable meal, broaden their “Circle of Influence” and connect with fellow women and hear from an extraordinary guest speaker.
To learn more about the "Remarkable Woman" series and events, click here
Congratulations to Susan Ann Davis, our speaker for the “ Remarkable Woman” lunch October 26, 2016. Susan was named Top 50 Power Women by Irish America magazine. The award “recognizes the achievements of the most influential and innovative Irish and Irish American women across all fields.”
Top 50 Power Women by Irish America magazine. : http://irishamerica.com/top-50-power-women/
I speak with a lot of women. Some are successful and others want to be! When I ask them to define success, I get a range of answers: money, power, the ability to shape the future, giving back to society; pretty focused, definitive answers. They all have a fairly clear vision of what success means to them.
When I ask them what they are prepared to do to achieve their success goals, they answer with much less clarity. The reason, I believe, is that there aren’t many role models of successful, high-achieving women and how they rose to their lofty positions. But, they are out there and when you find them, the leadership models they represent have surprising common threads.
Almost all of these high-performing women are confident and creative. They have the capacity to both teach and learn; can work independently and are strong team players; are great listeners but ask incisive questions. But the single most important commonality among these remarkable women, in my view, is their fearlessness. They are not afraid to take on challenges and stand up for what they believe – whether it’s defending a strategy, a point of view or a colleague.
And, almost every successful, remarkable woman I know has had someone in her professional life that has believed in her, trusted her, mentored her or sponsored her. No one has “made it” on her own.
Why am I sharing these observations with you? To help unburden you of the fear of “I can’t.”
“I can’t” gets in our way more often than we would like to believe. And, it is a major barrier to achieving our goals. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t take on that challenging assignment that will enhance both your visibility and credibility. You won’t attract the attention of others who could identify your leadership potential…someone who might be a mentor or a sponsor.
So, go ahead…try it. Because you CAN!
If you don’t have confidence, you need to develop confidence within yourself in order to become truly successful. Tap into your inner potential and allow your creativity to shine and overcome negative feelings and fears of failure and loss. Successful women understand that failure goes hand in hand with success. In reality, no one expects perfection, so why should you expect it of yourself?
Many extremely successful leaders have experienced unbelievable difficulties and setbacks, often with poor backgrounds, confronting countless obstacles on their path towards success. In facing problems, they have managed to develop resistance, persistence, and a strong will not only for survival, but also the capability to become warriors and role models for others. Everyone faces difficulties in life. It is an individual´s and a leader´s capability of coping with difficulties in an emotionally intelligent way that makes the difference.
And one more common thread among successful women executives- a unique style that comes through in their authenticity, personal style, and remaining true to themselves, their values and how they want to be seen in the world, and by other people.
They learn from the best, and surround themselves with likeminded people who allow them to express their uniqueness and authenticity in a supported way. Although they may face resistance, they accept the advice from others but yet, remain true to themselves and to their unique leadership style.
So go ahead…try it! Because you CAN!
In the words of Maya Angelou: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
About Aspire Ascend: We help executive women meet the challenges of career advancement and make an impact in the C-suite. We work with executive women and help them advance their careers with the mindset and tools they need to excel in the top ranks of the organization.
Ready to move forward? Email us today at email@example.com
Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
Washington, DC, June 10, 2016 – Recognizing that executive women need support to enhance their ability to succeed in senior leadership roles, Aspire Ascend – the organization providing resources, support and coaching for executive-level women – is adding a membership model to its business line. Aspire Ascend’s members will be able to access specifically designed leadership resources, enhance their business networks, attend events and forums and receive individual career coaching and guidance all designed to support their specific career goals.
To make it easier to become part of the Aspire Ascend network, the firm is launching a new, robust and user-friendly website (www.aspire-ascend.com) on June 10th. It will allow membership registration, quick access to important resources, inclusion in a network of executive women and invitations to events addressing the unique needs of women in the top ranks of their organizations.
To be considered for membership, the women need to come from the executive ranks of their organizations and pay an annual membership fee.
“We will serve the specific needs of each member by offering access to high-level connections, professional development seminars and by expanding their networks,” said Jan Molino, Aspire Ascend’s founder and chief executive officer. “As women advance in their careers, these opportunities will be invaluable to our members, providing the unique insights and strengths those responsibilities require,” she said.
Since its inception in 2014, Aspire Ascend has developed programs to assist women in the military transition into the civilian workforce, coached numerous executive-level women and advised for-profit and non-profit organizations on developing greater gender balance and sponsorship of women leaders.
Ms. Molino is a recognized expert on matters concerning women in the workplace and has been called upon for her guidance and counsel by a range of businesses, non-profits and government entities. She also has spoken to organizations and women’s groups on that subject and frequently blogs about women’s workplace issues.
“As we head into the general election with the very real prospect of having a woman President, there are few things more important to the future success of our country than tapping into the enormous potential women can bring to the workplace when they take on leadership roles,” said Ms. Molino.
Download the .pdf version