Sponsored by Lake Forest Graduate School of Management:
Although it’s often subconscious, the glass ceiling—a proverbial, invisible barrier women confront when trying to earn their way up the corporate ladder—is something that exists. Women with the same qualifications and experience as male co-workers can receive less advancement opportunities and lower pay as a result of this setback.
The number of women taking on top executive positions in the corporate world – including Fortune 500 companies – is low, but rising. According to the Center for American Progress, women hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, only 15 percent of executive officers, 8 percent of top earners, and 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
Despite the proven value women bring to the workplace, the positive impact they have on an organization’s bottom line, and the tireless ambition they set forth in their work, women in business still face a variety of negative perceptions due to their gender. These include:
- Women are inferior managers.
- Women don’t take their jobs as seriously as men.
- Women should take on a primary role at home, not work.
- Women would advance in business if they worked harder.
- Gender inequality does not exist.
For many, it may feel like an uphill battle to overcome such strong opposition for women in the workplace, but it doesn’t have to be. Women who equip themselves purposefully to break through the glass ceiling have the opportunity to earn the trust they deserve and make their way to the top of the corporate ladder. Earning an MBA can help break this barrier. Here are five reasons how:
1. Instilling Self-Confidence
Women can often times be their own worst enemy. Although they are completely qualified, hard-working, and valuable to their workplace, a lack of self-confidence can sneak in. If a woman has had personal experience with gender discrimination or bias, this can be especially difficult. Pursuing an MBA will not only equip students with the knowledge they need to perform their jobs better, it can help rebuild any confidence that has been lost through positive team-building experiences and increased business acumen.
2. Enhancing Leadership Skills
Personality traits associated with successful leadership skills—including, strength, aggression, pride or realism—are favored in men but can be discouraged in women. 90 percent of leadership success is attributed to emotional intelligence, something women are proven to be more in tune with, both for themselves and others. Research shows men are stronger in compartmentalizing emotions as to not allow them to spill over into other areas. Either way, improving your ability to navigate workplace culture and increase self-awareness are required skills for becoming a successful leader.
For example, Lake Forest Graduate School of Management offers an interactive educational environment that allows MBA students to learn from and analyze one another’s experiences in management. By discussing these things in a safe environment, students come away with the tools necessary to be more effective in their work and more influential to those around them.
3. Highlighting Business Acumen
As mentioned above, women in business face the misconception of being incompetent or less skilled than male counterparts. This is completely false. As an MBA instructor, I find that women offer a unique richness and diversity to classroom discussion, creating an interesting balance of perspectives. As corporate employees and managers are called upon to develop new business competencies, broaden existing ones, and participate in cross-functional initiatives, an MBA can provide a broad knowledge base that will enrich business acumen.
4. Developing an Adaptable Career Plan
Taking actions that reflect your dreams and aspirations is a crucial step in shattering the glass ceiling. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “You can’t lead from the crowd.” In order to accomplish the goals set before you, you have to be willing to forge your own path to build influence and grow trust as a valued businesswoman. MBA counselors, like those at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, work to empower students in making informed decisions and outlining a tangible plan for advancing their careers. Utilizing this resource can provide a vision for success that can be pursued with confidence.
5. Breakdown Barriers
We can’t control the overall consensus for women in leadership roles, but we can control the actionable steps we take in breaking down the barrier of stereotypes. Making an investment in yourself through enrolling in an MBA program provides an invaluable opportunity for intense leadership development, greater strategic vision, and gaining applicable skills to be applied in the workplace tomorrow. A journey of personal discovery awaits with the commitment to an MBA education.
Although modest progress is being made for women in leadership, taking bold steps to level the playing field could pave the way for women around the world. Eliminating barriers for women could raise labor productivity by 25 percent in some countries.
According to the Executive MBA Council, 37 percent of students exiting MBA programs expected to be promoted—43 percent were actually promoted, which led to increased earnings. Not only is advanced education good for professional development, it also leads students on a journey of personal development that extends far beyond graduation.