Where Did That Glass Ceiling Come From?

Do Women Build Their Own Glass Ceiling?

Do Women Create Their Own Glass Ceiling?

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

In their 2018 book, How Women Rise, well known executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith and his co-author, Sally Helgesen, detail 12 “habits”, practices or behaviors they found held women back in their careers. So far, I’ve discussed the first nine in my two previous blogs. In general, these practices stem from our desire to be “liked” or be “nice” to cooperate and be humble and modest about our accomplishments. You may be surprised to learn that these ladylike qualities will hurt you in the male dominated world of business, especially in corporate America.

In today’s blog, I’ll discuss the one of the last three “habits” we women need to break in order to rise in our careers.

10. Allowing Ourselves to be Pigeonholed as “Too Much” or Not a “Good Fit”.

Comes on Too Strong

Have you heard this complaint? You justcome on “too strong” or “too intense”. This perspective goes back to the old saw that women’s main role is as a mother and wife, supporting, loving, and patient. People may even perceive you as “unprofessional “or “unreliable”, when in fact, you are neither. And here’s where the “not a good fit” comes in. Not a good fit for what exactly? I’ve faced this exact problem and people complained that I spoke out too much, I expressed my opinion too loudly, or I always wanted things my own way. I called it as I saw it, and I eventually paid the price. The perception I established was way too hard to overcome, and I never could see what I was doing wrong. We don’t want to suppress our opinions and feelings, especially when we bring a fresh and new idea to the table. But as many “strong” women come to learn, in corporate, we have to learn to moderate. We don’t want to be secretive about our feelings because being mysterious can actually diminish our reputations or reduce our trust factor. Of course, once you change course, the critics may not be aware of the price you had to pay when you acted as yourself. Gaining self-awareness, through emotional intelligence training or coaching will help bring you to a greater sense of discipline and understanding as to when emotional displays are appropriate and when they are not. As the authors warn us, too much emotion in the form of fear, frustration, and resentment, is never constructive in the work environment and leads to further labeling and pigeonholing.

Talking Too Much

The next area of “too much” is one of women’s most vulnerable areas. Studies have shown that women speak about 20,000 words per day, while men speak around 7,000. Can you see where this is going? Yes, ladies, we must learn to get to the point. Convert your speech to power point bullets. Can you imagine the men’s eyes glazing over as we explain a problem? We make a lot of side observations too, according to the authors, instead of sticking to the topic at hand (in other words, we tend to go down dirt roads). We come up with too many reasons, we chit chat too much in meetings, and we jump up with the “answers” rather than wait for the question. Best to be brief and concise because the average attention span of the audinece is “punishingly” short.

Too Much Information

And lastly, we women just are too willing to reveal personal information. The authors found that we are much more guilty of Too Much Information (TMI) than are men. Here’s the contrast: Women establish relationships by deep personal discussions, and men develop relationships by doing things together as a “team”. They golf, bowl, play cards, play softball and other “team” activities, and bond through competitiveness and out pacing each other. They make side bets on who’s best. That’s their idea of fun. And they build professional relationships and learn the inside ropes by listening in on the side chatter at these events. They may even get noticed more by the right influential person for that next big job, especially if they are paired with him on the next golf outing. Long story short, ladies, let’s work to understand the culture we spend our eight working hours a day in, and try to assimilate. It’s almost like being in The Wizard of Oz; you crash land and realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.