5 Ways High-Achieving Women Can Break Through the Glass Ceiling

UPDATED: April 3, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 21, 2019
5 Ways High Achieving Women Can Break Through the Glass Ceiling

High-achieving women have always faced barriers to success, whether they’ve focused on intrapreneurship or entrepreneurship as a long-term career strategy. What’s more intriguing, however, is that these women have always seemed to muster the courage and determination to secure a seat at the table and the power to effect change.

But even with a long-standing history of “fighting the good fight,” women can still benefit from new ways to confront the muck and mire of the business world.

Related: How Men Can Help Women Battle Gender Inequality

If you’re a woman looking for smart ways to succeed in your career, consider the following strategies as you make your trek up the corporate ladder and beyond:

1. Raise your standards.

The same level of excellence that got you to where you are, will not take you to where you want to be. Mediocrity has never been associated with high performers or high potentials. Therefore, whatever your career objectives, challenge yourself to work smarter rather than harder, and expect more from yourself than others would. That means adopting daily rituals designed to get you a little closer to where you want to be. Wake up earlier, work later, complete the task sooner and better—whatever it takes to elevate your performance and expedite outcomes. Results don’t happen without rituals. Make sure yours reflect a level of excellence that positions you for greater success.

2. Make more mistakes.

As quiet as it’s kept, mistakes are rather common occurrences along the road to success. And, no matter how smart, prepared or savvy you may be, expect to find yourself smack dab in the middle of a few during your career. Ask any accomplished professional—man or woman—and he or she will admit as much. Missteps offer opportunities to learn and begin again with a renewed sense of self and greater insights than before. Embrace those lessons, rather than trying to avoid them. The more, the merrier.

3. Know the difference between a mentor and sponsor, then get both.

Mentors share wisdom curated over a lifetime of experience; they act as advisers. They provide behind-the-scenes feedback and direction on any number of factors that affect professional mobility. Sponsors are generally senior-level leaders who are vested in a protégé’s overall career success and actively advocate for them. By putting the protégé forth, the sponsor leverages their influence to add credibility to the protégé’s career trajectory. Women need both because this level of overarching support ensures greater upward mobility and long-term career success that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

4. Leverage your professional wheelhouse.

Too often, we forget that the comprehensiveness of our knowledge, skills and abilities is not limited to our current or most recent career path. Your “professional wheelhouse” consists of the entirety of your knowledge, skills, experiences and abilities. When used to add value to all that you do, you literally end up with the home-court advantage. This is because we often take for granted that certain professional experiences inform unrelated ones, and that together they add up to strengthen your professional capacity. That said, do not take for granted the bounty of what you know. Dig deeper to see how to successfully incorporate more of what you know into all that you do.

5. Network, delegate and collaborate like a pro.

Success is never the result of solitary efforts. In business, attempting to do everything yourself is a recipe for disaster, no matter how capable you may be. Beyond delegating duties—which is a must—making purposeful connections and collaborating with others adds unlimited value to the work you do. Networking on a regular basis is a tried and true way to reach new audiences, explore synergies and share your expertise in a low-stress environment. What’s more, there is no one way to network. Keep things fun and interesting by mingling outside of your industry and comfort zone. With focused efforts, you might be amazed at how easily you grow a component circle of influence.

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, take these strategies with you. Cheers to breaking the chains that bind, and shattering the glass ceiling.

Related: 5 Career Secrets Women Need to Know

A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.