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Still aiming for the glass ceiling



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If you think women have finally broken through the glass ceiling, think again.

According to “The Sponsor Effect” — a new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy — five major pitfalls continue to haunt women in the workplace.

Most times, a combination of these leads to stagnation among female executives in that almost-senior management layer. The center’s president, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, presented the findings recently at an event hosted by American Express.


Men — at a ratio of 2-to-1 — look for work relationships that help them make connections to get ahead. Women look for friendships instead.

Leadership, looks and presence

“Gravitas and speaking skills are important, but presentation of self is huge,” noted Hewlett.

The study adds: “Everyone judges women on their appearance, yet no one steps forward to offer guidance. And so — despite sterling credentials, proven capability, and a solid track record — female talent remains mystifyingly, maddeningly, outside the inner circle of leaders who exude ‘executive presence.’”

Sexual politics

Thirty-four percent of women and 26 percent of men suspect a colleague of having an illicit affair. Sixty-four percent of men in senior leadership positions fear having one-on-one conversations with junior women because of a fear of gossip.

Meritocracy or ‘The Dirty Game’

An overwhelming majority of women believe that performance is the key to success, while 83 percent of men believe that relationships and connections matter along with performance. Why do women continue to think that any other way of getting ahead is dirty? According to the study, it’s a continued belief that the quality of their work will stand out on its own as well as an aversion to self-promotion.

Ambition and ambivalence

Women are more aware of family sacrifices. Astoundingly, the study found that after years of struggling for parity in the workplace, women are better situated than ever before to reach for the brass ring but seemingly don’t want it. The study noted: “Certainly women hop onto the carousel eagerly …but the longer they’re in the game, the more inclined women are to downsize their ambitions.”

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