Q: I’ve been a junior manager for some time and have been unsuccessful in my applications for more senior positions. I often think it is because I’m a woman. Some colleagues feel I should demand to be treated more fairly. Your suggestions?
A: The so-called “glass ceiling”, which refers to the subtle discrimination against people advancing within an organization — in this case, women — is certainly found in most companies.
In fact, although many progressive companies and governmental agencies have made significant efforts to improve the opportunities for women (and visible minorities), the elimination or reduction of barriers seems to be moving at a sluggish pace.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is something we need to acknowledge. With time, perhaps, the circumstances will change as women move more into executive positions with the responsibilities and compensation to match. Advances will almost certainly not happen rapidly.
While this may sound rather discouraging, it is also prudent not to be concerned with a pervasive condition that won’t be resolved through your individual frustrations.
Your personal situation, however, may be something that can be addressed.
Approach the apparent discrimination with an open mind and don’t see yourself as a victim.
It is entirely possible, of course, that you could have been unsuccessful in your applications because others candidates — males, I presume ‚ were superior with better qualifications, experience and education.
Perhaps you were less prepared for your interviews and other applicants may have presented an image that was more authoritative and professional.
In any case, at this point you can’t be sure why you haven’t been promoted. Co-workers are suggesting you “demand to be treated more fairly”; in my view, that is ill-advised and will almost certainly create tension which could further diminish your opportunities for advancement.
If you haven’t already done so, arrange to meet with your supervisor confidentially in her office; working from prepared notes, respectfully request to know the reasons for your lack of career mobility.
Listen carefully and respond logically and calmly. Do not argue or whine. Should she recommend you take a program of study to further your management skills, for example, accept her advice.
If you plan to remain with this company — and generally like the atmosphere — you’ll need to be seen as a positive force. After all, when you eventually receive a well-deserved promotion, you want to be chosen because you are simply the best person for the job!
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