Breaking through glass ceilings
Glass ceiling refers to “situations where the advancement of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination, such as prejudice.”The term “also describes the limited advancement of persons with disabilities inthe workplace. It is believed to be an unofficial, invisible barrier that prevents women and minorities from advancing in businesses”.
Referred to a ceiling due to its blocking of upward advancement, the glass refers to it notbeing immediately apparent (an unwritten and unofficial policy). Glass ceilingsdo exist, even though there are no visible obstacles to keep minorities fromacquiring senior positions – no adverts that say “no minorities hired here”- noformal orders saying “minorities do not qualify”. These ceilings stay hiddenand apart from formal barriers to advancement, such as education or experiencerequirements, and seem to exist more in developing countries.
The glassceiling prevents women, and persons from minorities, from securing powerful andprestigious jobs in the workforce. It makes them feel irrelevant and unworthyof high-ranking positions.
Break that ceiling!
Be assertive: Assert your needs as a disabled worker without being aggressive. Thisalso means saying no. when relevant and appropriate, to prevent you frombecoming a dumping ground.
Be open and confident: It is good to be honest and open about one’s impairment, disability andbarriers at work. Line managers and colleagues will understand yourrequirements better once they have been openly communicated.
Know your rights: Itis important to know and understand that, although you are a person with adisability, you are a first class citizen of this country. Our human rights andlabour legislation includes people with disabilities and encourages equality inthe workplace. You have the right to be employed should you meet the inherentrequirements of the job and reasonable accommodations should be implemented withoutany fuss or negativity.
Deliver good results: Itis a known fact that employees with a disability often do a better job thantheir colleagues. Do not accept mediocrity! Perform! Deliver results! This willraise your visibility within the organisation.
Seek out promotion: Workactively by building your career and knowing what your career path is and howyou can achieve your career goals. Take ownership for your own development andcontinuously grow your skill and experience base. Apply for promotions andalways approach each application with a positive attitude and passion.
Display resilience: Itis of critical importance to handle setbacks in the workplace and NOT to focusonly on why something did not happen, such as career advancement. Investigatehow you can do things differently next time and actively hunt for the positive.
Build your network: Reachout and make an effort to network with other areas of the business and to getinvolved with cross-functional teams. Expand yourprofessional network outside of your organization. If you can't break the glassceiling in your company, you may have to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Build your reputation: Get noticed! Colleagues must become aware of your competence, leadership abilities, communication skills and technicalknowledge. Visibility is very important. Remember, while you can see up, thoseat the top can see down. Make sure that who they see is you!
Find a Mentor: Having a mentor is a powerful way to breakthrough a glass ceiling, even one that has been there for a long time. Is uppermanagement reluctant to work with certain types of individuals? Do they excludecertain people from important communications? A mentor can help you learn howto get connected to the information and people who can help you. A mentor canalso be a great source of ideas for your professional development and growth.