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5 Essential Skills Women Can Use To Break Through The Glass Ceiling

by David James
Posted: February 29, 2016

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It’s amazing to see that in this day in age, there are still disparities with wages and recognition for a woman’s worth in the workforce.

Even though the Sexual Discrimination Act was passed several years ago, women in Australia still fall victim to the silent prison that prohibits them from achieving their desired success in their chosen career.

The glass ceiling is unfortunately a barrier that is all too real, preventing women from progressing into influential senior management positions that can shape the future of the Australian economy. 

Gender inequality is stifling Australia’s economic progress

Gender equality

There is nothing more frustrating than having your personal growth stifled by gender limitations and male bias. Lisa Conolly from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has said that 26% of all Key Management Personnel, 24% of all Board Directors and 17% of CEOs were women between 2013-2014. Although progress has been made, it is still predominately a ‘boys-only’ club at the top. 

Additionally, a whitepaper published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency cited the national gender pay gap at 17.9%, with the highest gap in the “Financial and Insurance Services” industry at 30.5%. Even though there have been significant improvements over the past 40 years, there are still alarming statistics, as highlighted in the infographic below. 

5 essential skills women can use to breakthrough the glass ceiling and secure senior career roles


In 2015, men overwhelmed women when it came to receiving nominations for the ‘Order of Australia’. Men received 1100 nominations and women received 500.

There are women that excel in their line of work, but struggle to receive recognition through awards, promotions and pay rises. It seems that the invisible barrier is still there to restrict women from progressing. That’s why it is crucial that women empower themselves with the skills required to break through the glass ceiling in their organisation. 

What can women do to break through the glass ceiling?

Equal rights for women

Women that have successfully broken through the glass ceiling share one common trait, which is the ability to demonstrate value.

Perceived value by your peers and organisation will allow you to become the irresistible asset that they need, while allowing you to overcome the obstacles typically faced by career-driven women. The questions you must ask yourself to position yourself as a valuable asset to your organisation include:

  • What are the values of your organisation?
  • What behaviours does your organisation value and reward?
  • What type of person is promoted?

Becky Blalock from the Wall Street Journal believes the secret to success for women getting ahead in the workplace includes the following:

1. Being visionary

Learning to develop and see the big picture can inject a powerful culture into the organisation. Furthermore, you must develop your skills beyond job specialty and become strategic while knowing how to manage and coordinate the actions of staff that will add value to the organisation.  

2. Being creative

The people that ultimately succeed are the ones that are the most creative. Creating new products, creating solutions to problems and processes, as well as spurring innovation are just a few of the ways you can add value to your organisation. 

3. Leadership 

When leadership is done well, it will magnify the operational efficiency of the department and positively impact the value of the business. Leaders must remember to treasure their most valuable asset, which are the organisation’s employees. As a leader, you must learn, listen, praise and inspire your employees so they flourish, thus making you and the organisation flourish.  

4. Stepping out of your comfort zone 

CNBC cited this as the main reason why women struggle to break through the glass ceiling. Taking the initiative to take charge and make things happen will allow you to create the opportunities that you desire for your own career path. Take risks, but learn how to take smart risks that will minimise the chances of any backlash or failure. Many people face a ‘limiting belief’ that prohibits them from advancing further in their careers. Learn how to take smart risks that will add momentum and credibility for your career. 

5. Having mentors and sponsors that will support your career growth 

You need people that will nurture your career growth by teaching you the skills that are required for senior roles and creating the opportunities to for you to advance in your career. 

Gail Kelly: A shining example of a woman that has successfully broken through the glass ceiling in the Australian economy 

Gail Kelly, former Westpac Chief

  • Position: Former Westpac Chief
  • Previous reported salary: $11.76 million ($2.25 million cash, $9.51 million performance share options.)

Gail Kelly is the living proof of a woman that broke through the glass ceiling to become one of the most powerful bankers in Australia. She was Westpac’s leader until her retirement in February 2015. Her path over 30 years took her from the leader of the classroom, where she was a Latin teacher in Zimbabwe to the leader of the banking boardroom for one of Australia’s leading retail banks. In a speech that she gave at the St. George Foundation, she advised the following:

“Choose to be positive” 

Going out with a sense of optimism is a life and business skill that will allow you to overcome the challenges that you will face. How you respond to situations and the positive actions that you take to learn, overcome and develop to achieve your own success when faced with adversity is crucial.

“Be bold and dig deep”

Women have been portrayed to play second fiddle to men. You must be prepared to back yourself, be courageous and take your destiny into your own hands. While the rest of the world may not have as much confidence as you, you must choose to overcome those limitations by creating opportunities for yourself

“Live a whole life”

Many women are faced with the choice to dedicate their life to a chosen career field or to family. Women have the opportunity to live lives that are wholesome by getting the right balance with their career, family, spirituality, health and wellbeing. 

The opportunity is there

Women have the opportunity to breakthrough and seize senior roles that were previously out of reach. Now is the opportunity for you to champion the change for women in the Australian economy. 

Looking for a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of gender equality in Australia? Get the full story here.


The founder of Business Growth Digital Marketing agency, David James is a marketing expert, specialising in SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, display and much more. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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