I've had my fair share of doubters in my life, and if you are a woman reading this, so have you. I want to share with all of the women reading this some tangible ways to break through the glass ceiling—the barrier to professional advancement in your life. It can be done.
I was 22 years old, sitting in my undergrad strength and conditioning class along with 20 guys, and one other girl. By now I was pretty used to being “one of the token girls” in the class. A group of us were chatting about our next steps, and at the time I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach. Statistically, only about 17 percent of strength coaches are women. So of course this made me want to be one even more. (I actually didn’t end up going this route exactly, but nevertheless back to the story.) As we were talking about what we wanted to do, after I spoke up, one of the guys scoffed. He said, “no offense, but you’re never gonna get a job.” He didn’t have to say WHY. I knew what he meant.
Now, not to brag but I graduated at the top of my class. That guy could barely spell. His lack of awareness was pungent. And he doesn’t know this, but that statement changed my life. I was so fucking pissed that I made it my mission to kick ass at my career and rub his nose in it one day. And I did—but I’ll get to that at the end of the story.
What's the Glass Ceiling?
The glass ceiling is an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities. These barriers are often undetectable. They are unwritten rules and decisions made under the influence of unconscious biases. They are obstacles put in the way of women’s career advancement, however, they are not in the form of strictly defined corporate policies and they’re almost never blatantly obvious. An example would be not hiring a woman because she’s not deemed “attractive.” Which has nothing to do with work performance and skill.
These statistics suck ass. However, just because our paths might be harder to walk through, doesn’t mean we can’t. We just might need tougher shoes.
- Both male and female managers are twice as likely to hire men over women. Women also have a bias towards women. It’s not just men, ladies.
- At companies where 90 percent of leadership is men, half of the men in the company view women as being well-represented.
- Just 10 percent of leadership in the workplace is represented by women.
- Contrary to popular belief, men and women ask for pay raises at the same rate.
- Women receive pay raises five percent less often than men.
Four Ways to Break the Ceiling in Your Life
Let’s get into it. Below are four ways to break the glass ceiling in your life.
1. Ask for what you are worth.
Literally, and from the get-go. Women, in general, tend to have a hard time asking for what they are worth because it’s ingrained in us from childhood that we have to be accommodating and nice. In business, people will always try to get you for the lowest price, and women are used to being offered and often accepting the lowest wage. It is our job to be our own advocate and ask for what we are worth. And we also need to have the courage to walk away from jobs that do not serve us.
2. Support other women.
Like I mentioned before, women are just as likely to hold bias about other women as men are. That is lunacy! So I encourage you to ask yourself honestly, have you ever thought of a woman’s skill as “less than” for no real reason? Yeah, that’s unconscious bias. As women, it is our job to support women in general but especially in the field. If another woman speaks up with an idea, make sure she gets heard AND receives the credit.
Cheer on other women at work! Their success is your success because the more women who break through barriers, the more women will see that it is possible. A woman’s win does not take away from your own success. It only paves the way for even more women to succeed in the future.
3. Remove the glass ceiling from your mindset.
Does the glass ceiling exist? Yes. Does that mean you are screwed? No. Being aware of something is different than allowing it to manifest into a limiting belief. So if you have this limiting belief mindset that you won’t even try because there’s no way you’ll make it, instead try switching your mindset to this:
There are no “men” jobs, but instead, “person” jobs.
Maintain the attitude that if men can have something, so can you.
Step up as an equal. You must believe in yourself as an equal player for it to become a reality.
Thinking of yourself as anything less will automatically set you up for failure.
4. Create your own opportunities.
The glass ceiling doesn't have to hold you back from reaching the leadership role you want. One way to break through barriers is to put yourself in charge. When you start your own company, you create your own career opportunities without any organizational bias.
I now run my own business and that had more to do with my calling than a glass ceiling, but I think more women need to be aware of what they can create on their own. Especially in the world of internet and tech, the possibilities are literally endless.
Back to My Story
Now, back to my story. Flash forward about five years later. That guy that I told you about? He reached out to me via Facebook messenger with this: “Hey. I saw you are writing for elitefts! Don’t you work for Ohio State now too?......” It was like he forgot what he told me years ago. A guy that told me I would never get a job is now pumping me up and asking for training advice. The irony.
So just goes to show, the glass ceiling is only there if you let it be there. I didn’t let it. And you don’t have too either. If you want even more inspiration, I recommend reading up on Rachel Balkovec’s story. Rachel is currently the first woman hired to be a full-time hitting coach for a Major League Baseball team. She is a hitting coach for the New York Yankees. Her story, and what it took for her to get here is mind-blowing. But she did it! And like I said, you can break through the glass ceiling too.
- Reuben, Ernesto, et al. “How Stereotypes Impair Women's Careers in Science.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 5 Mar. 2014, www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/03/05/1314788111.
- “Women in the Workplace 2020: A Crisis Is Looming in Corporate America.” LeanIn.Org, McKinsey & Company, womenintheworkplace.com/.
- Artz, Benjamin, et al. “Research: Women Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but Are Less Likely to Get Them.” Harvard Business Review, 22 Nov. 2019, hbr.org/2018/06/research-women-ask-for-raises-as-often-as-men-but-are-less-likely-to-get-them.
Alycia Israel is a nationally qualified NPC figure and bikini competitor and raw powerlifter. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an ISSN-certified sports nutritionist. Alycia was also the personal training coordinator at Ohio State University for seven years. She currently owns and operates Alycia's Barbell, an online training and nutrition business that helps clients lose fat for life or jump on the competitive bodybuilding stage. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.