Breaking the glass ceiling: Strategies for career advancement

Breaking the glass ceiling: Strategies for career advancement
Breaking the glass ceiling: Strategies for career advancement

posted 29 Feb 24

Since 2015, the number of women in the C-suite has increased from 17% to 28%, and the representation of women at the vice president and senior vice president levels has also improved significantly. However, despite these hard-earned gains, women represent roughly one in four C-suite leaders, and women of colour just one in 16, according to McKinsey report: Women in the Workplace 2023 report. This data is evidence that even in 2024, the ‘glass ceiling’ is still a systematic barrier many women face when advancing their careers, particularly those with traditionally marginalised identities.    

At Search, we strive to only work with clients who promote inclusive hiring and equal opportunities for progression. With International Women’s Day (IWD) approaching, we wanted to share our strategies for breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ with females wanting to advance their careers.  

1. Select supportive workplaces  

Companies that actively support women often foster inclusive and positive workplace cultures and supportive and collaborative work environments, which can derive greater job satisfaction for employees. They are also more likely to provide equal opportunities for professional development, prioritise the well-being of female employees, and engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that align with your values. When seeking employment, look at organisations that employ many female leaders. If you notice gender disparity within leadership roles, this may indicate that they do not follow effective recruitment and retention practices. 

When researching prospective employers to inform your job search, you can utilise online tools such as The Ledbetter Gender Equality Index, named in homage to Lilly Ledbetter, namesake of the Fair Pay Act. The Index lays bare information regarding female representation and equality in leadership at the top 230 companies that own nearly 2,000 of the most popular consumer brands worldwide. If you're unable to find how a company ranks online, we advise looking at company social profiles and their meet the team / leadership pages on their website to gain further insight.  

Top tip: When shortlisting potential employers and roles, don’t be afraid to ask these questions to your recruitment partner – a good recruiter will know their clients inside out and be transparent with you.   

2. Leverage female mentorship 

Seek professional connections at your company or externally, whether that’s a regular meet-up with a cohort or a female leader you admire. Forging a relationship with a mentor may open new leadership opportunities through introductions to their professional networks or by informing you of new job openings. A mentor also helps facilitate career advancement through the transfer of skills and knowledge, including technical and soft skills necessary for those wanting to achieve the next level. 

Working with a female mentor specifically will provide insight and guidance based on experiences to help you navigate similar challenges, make informed decisions, and set achievable career goals. With a focus on diversity and inclusion, mentorship programs are becoming more popular within the professional landscape, including internal programmes, with 76% of businesses in agreement that mentoring has been important to their business growth.  

At Search, we encourage mentoring and facilitate relationship building across the business through our mentorship training which many of our employees have enrolled in. We spoke to our Talent Development Partner, Amy Bentley, to learn what mentorship means to her:  

Amy Bentley, Search Talent Development Partner

Mentorship is about two individuals working together to develop and share knowledge while supporting the individual in both their professional and personal growth. I am a strong advocate of peer-to-peer learning - mentoring allows the mentee to learn skills from a colleague, but also allows the mentor to learn about themselves and improve self-awareness and communication skills.

Amy Bentley, Search Talent Development Partner

3. Master your negotiation skills 

Salary negotiations are generally seen as competitive situations that favour men and masculinity. In such settings, self-advocation violates societal norms that women should be kind, communal, and less risk averse. While these generalisations may not hold true for all individuals, research suggests that women are more reluctant to ask for a promotion or raise and less effective when they do.  

To overcome societal expectations and achieve higher-powered jobs and better remuneration or benefits, women must have confidence in their abilities and communicate this with employers and prospective employers. Consistently practicing and refining negotiation skills over time will help you become more effective in negotiations. Here are some of the key points to consider when developing your negotiation skills: 

  • Clarify your goals before entering negotiations 
  • Use persuasive and assertive communication techniques 
  • Build rapport with the other party 
  • Use evidence to leverage your strengths 
  • Manage emotions and remain professional 
  • Offer solutions to potential objections 
  • Aim for a mutually beneficial outcome 

Search #InspireInclusion and support women to move into senior roles every day through fair and gender-equitable recruitment practices. If you’re looking for a recruitment partner with inclusive hiring at their heart, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch today to discuss how we can support your career aspirations.