Is the Glass Ceiling structural?

Is the Glass Ceiling structural?

What’s the glass ceiling? An imaginary, invisible point at which a woman executive finds herself no longer able to progress her career for reasons that are, paradoxically, not entirely clear.  Infuriating, frustrating, often unfair, its transparency makes it impossible to see how and why it got there, and thus who to confront, blame or negotiate with to pass through it. Is it a ceiling, or a lid, constraining the business?

Perhaps it’s not just one thing, or one person behind any particular glass ceiling, but a structural issue. Most businesses are built on a very ‘masculine’ structure – the concept of command and control, of hierarchy and lines of authority. Of course there’s good reason for this – historically it’s the way successful armies are structured. I could go on, but I’m proposing that in order to work effectively in such a structure, the participants must necessarily be more ‘masculine’ than ‘feminine’, because that’s how the organisation is. 


Often, when we investigate cause of an incident, success or failure, or some creativity, we look at ULS – underlying structures.  These are sometimes not clearly apparent, but if not changed, then the observed result will in the long run, remain unchanged. (If you are aware of any ‘change programs,’ see if an underlying structure was changed or not, and whether the program was a success.) 

The underlying structure of most organisations is ‘masculine’ and this makes it difficult for the ‘feminine’ to be truly effective, because the ‘feminine’ does not operate comfortably in a more predominantly ‘masculine’ structure.  So, to dissolve the glass ceiling (the ‘masculine’ way would be to attack it), put in place a more feminine structure.   There are some very simple ways to do this, and I am preparing talks and coaching showing how and what clients have done with it.  The results have been spectacular. Several women I have coached have increased their value significantly (manifest by increased rewards in money and well-being), relatively quickly. The whole organisation benefits from the more feminine underlying structure. It’s not a soft option by any means, but having such structure allows the feminine to step into her full power and when you’ve seen that, you’ll wonder at the insanity of a structural glass lid on your business.

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