Hitting the Glass Ceiling

As women fighting against the glass ceiling, we know we’re not alone. And through communities like Project  Eve, we can see and hear we’re not alone. The glass ceiling is not a personal vendetta from one man or woman to another woman. It’s bigger than that. It’s society, cultures and habit. But when you first hit it, it certainly feels personal. Then you hit it again, and maybe again, …..and again. So how can it NOT feel personal?

That’s why I wanted to hear your experiences of hitting the glass ceiling. Let’s all make each other feel better. I’ll go first.

A few years ago I was promoted in my job at work to replace someone at Manager level. I wasn’t allowed to have the title of Manager though. I had to be a “co-ordinator”, because I hadn’t been with the company long enough to have earned the right to be a manager. That was my first bump against the ceiling. Then I asked about pay, because obviously if my role was changing, becoming a lot more demanding and loaded with responsibility, there would be a change in pay. Hauled into an office, I was shouted at by my manager for having the “audacity to ask such a thing.” He was not amused and clearly baffled by my ambitions. “How dare you. You should be happy to work for free,” he said. If only I’d known then what I know now. I would have had much more to say on the subject, but as it was, I shuffled back to my desk embarrassed and ashamed. I had overstepped my mark. When I had I been given a mark? How did I know what was over stepping? I had done the wrong thing. Or so I thought back then. I suppose you could call that one more of a direct hit to the glass ceiling.

My third hit came in another job, when I had taken on the responsibility of the day to day management of a temporary member of staff. After a few months, I asked about the possibility of a promotion and pay rise to reflect the extra work. This time, it was a woman in a senior position, who almost laughed as she told me “you’re not a manager.” Fair enough, I thought, maybe I need to clarify what it means to be a manager, so that I have something to aim for in the future. So I asked. As she reeled off a list of duties and responsibilities, my heart sank. I did all of those things. So this was not about me not fitting the role. This was something else. “I do all of those things” I told her, “on a day to day basis.” Her expression changed. She was caught and I saw fleeting panic in her eyes. In that instant, I knew there was no hope for me in that company. I had loved working there, but she was now thinking up another excuse. What was her eventual response? “We can’t promote you. Your colleagues would get jealous.” It may only have taken a second for her to come up with that, but it was a second too long, and I lost all respect for her as a woman who had made it to the top of her game, to be shutting me down with an excuse like that.

I know I’m not alone. I’m not alone in feeling that it’s personal, every time you hear a no. You will all have your own stories, and I’d love to hear them because I think it will make us all feel better. Especially to hear of those who smashed through the ceiling to become one of those with the power to say no to others……. and saying yes instead.

Credits: Image is “Woman Raising Hands Head” by Ambro.