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Not glass ceiling but 'sisterhood ceiling'

Career Tips By Mum-in-chief
Photo of two ladies in their office
Photo:Courtesy

Busy as I may be juggling between motherhood, wife duties and advancing my career, I love to take some time off to read. So recently, I came across an illuminating read online that I totally agree with because I can relate to it and I have seen it manifest at my work place.

Apparently, the biggest stumbling block to women advancing in their careers is not the glass ceiling as widely thought, but sisterhood ceiling.

According to the publication, which was quoting a study by the Journal of Psychology and Social Psychology, the biggest roadblock to a sister finally getting that corner office, is not the glass ceiling, but some different force.

One of the experts quoted in the publication, Corinne Mills a career coach says this of the sisterhood ceiling: “The more senior you get, it’s not necessarily about talent and expertise and skills – it’s about politics. Men can be quite open about playing the game, whereas women can be more behind the scenes. That’s just the way it is.”

While men take office politics and competition in the office just as that – competition, women on the other hard take these power games from fellow senior female colleagues personally.

They actually interpret it as betrayal when a fellow woman questions a decision or a strategy they are rooting for.

So for instance if Amanda, a senior manager makes a certain proposal for a major project that could earn her a promotion and her fellow colleague Diana shots the idea because she has valid reasons that it has serious gaps, Amanda will not take that kindly.

She may interpret this negatively and this may lead to fallout in that relationship. She will even hold a grudge against her colleague that may last a lifetime.

Men on the other hand, do not take such power moves too seriously. According to the study, women take competition and criticism too seriously which ultimately affects their career advancement.

To men, it is just work, but to women because of the emotional connection to their job, competition is personal. And by taking work competition too seriously, women could unknowingly be hurting their career prospects.

The career coach sums it thus: “But women invest emotionally in their job quite a lot and their self-esteem is often linked to it.

So if what they think is a good idea isn’t taken up they can find it harder to not take it to heart. Generally, men can be more resilient and get on with the next plan of attack.”

So how do we overcome this hurdle to advance in our careers? Assistant Professor Sun Young Lee of the UCL School of Management, who led the ‘sisterhood ceiling’ study, says the answer lies in women changing their attitudes.

Other strategies are for women to depersonalise and stop taking things at the office too seriously. Realise that it is not about you, some battles you will win other you will lose. Finally, to shatter the sisterhood ceiling, it helps to have thick skin at work.

The writer is a married working mother of a toddler boy and pre-school girl. She shares her experience of juggling between career, family and social life.

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