Dream Through the Glass Ceiling

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, From the Forefront Office Leave a Comment

With an ever-decreasing percentage of workers who are willing to dream big, here is how companies are taking steps to minimize misconceptions about climbing the corporate ladder and combatting the glass ceiling.

By Jaclyn Crawford

When adults ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Children usually respond with big, wild dreams like astronaut, doctor, or rock star. As children grow up, these dreams shift to fit interests and further education. Ideal careers become one of success, climbing up the corporate ladder, and ultimately leadership.

According to a recent CareerBuilder study, fewer people are dreaming big. Only 34 percent of workers aspire to leadership positions, and out of those, merely 7 percent aim for c-level management positions.  At first glance, these new findings leave some executives, like Tobias Lee, CMO at Thomson Reuters, surprised.

“There are a ton of male CEOs, no one ever bats an eye at or wonders how close he is with his children.”Jocelyn Wong

“In my conversations with people here at work, I certainly see a higher percentage of people expressing interest to rise up to a leadership position. So the statistics were surprising to me,” Lee said.

Looking deeper, Lee understands that there could be many variables impacting the traditional idea of climbing the corporate ladder, such as a new generation of employees valuing telecommuting.

“There’s a good point here about the work-life balance component and how that’s driving more people to stay either where they’re at or not at the uber-executive level. And I can understand that point,” Lee said. “There may be some correlation between the increased prevalence for people to work remotely and the need for executives, in some companies, to be at the office impacting people in their desire to move up.”

The study data also shows that 52 percent of workers are satisfied in their current roles and 34 percent do not want to sacrifice work-life balance.

For Jocelyn Wong, Chief Marketing Officer at Family Dollar, these results did not surprise her. She suggests the value of having a work-life balance has become increasingly important, especially for women.

“With moms even today, there’s this whole resurgence of going back almost to the 1950’s mentality and women wanting to think about the quality of life,” Wong said. “Women are believing that there are certain things you will have to give up when you go down that [executive] path, and therefore they don’t want that.”

For women and minorities, another factor can also be a glass ceiling. One in five workers said they feel the organization they work for has this unseen barrier preventing advancement.

“If in fact all members of the management team are middle-age Caucasian men, that says something to you. Perception-wise, there is an influence there,” Lee said.

Lee stressed the importance of having Employee Resource Groups [ERGs] to aid in the perceived glass ceiling. At Thomson Reuters, they refer to their ERGs as BRGs—Business Resource Groups that drive change on behalf of a group towards a business goal. Lee sits as the executive sheriff of the Asian-American BRG.

“BRGs certainly help employees feel like they have support and the company has the focus to make that a priority and not let any glass ceilings dictate,” Lee said.

Currently, 27 percent of employers have an initiative to support females pursuing leadership, and 26 percent have initiatives that support minorities.

For women, Wong said that the glass ceilings may not always be due to internal company structure, but external factors as well.

“I would say it’s fifty-fifty. There is an element that the data doesn’t lie—I am in retail, talk about an old boys’ club,” Wong said. “But there is the other half that I think society and women inflict on themselves. For whatever reason, I think women are so much more judgmental about this path then men are.”

She cites conversations with colleagues and friends asking, “Can women have it all?” Saying the decision to move up in leadership is personal to every woman with the belief that being in the c-suite, women are asked to give up time spent raising a family.

“It’s almost like we’ve shut off the path before even making it available to us, and being in control of our own choices,” Wong said. “There are a ton of male CEOs, no one ever bats an eye at or wonders how close he is with his children. I’ve never been in a conversation about work/life balance of any male CEO.”

However, as the study shows, leadership may not be for everyone. Lee recommends for managers and employees to think of how we are redefining what leadership means though opportunities and expectation.

“There are stereotypes that go into what today’s view is. The company also has to find ways to celebrate that position, the impact on the company, and excite the employee base that being a leader in the company isn’t about making more money,” said Lee. “It is about staying true to the company brand promise that hopefully employee’s believe in.”

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Jaclyn Crawford is the Assignment Editor at Forefront Magazine.

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