Accessability Links

Smashing the glass ceiling

Posted by
29 Mar 2016

Following on from a blog recently posted by my colleague, Austin Brislen, I thought I would follow it up and outline the content of our presentation at the recent ICAEW Women in Finance event which took place on Tuesday 09th February. The event saw an excellent turnout with women  from across the North West’s most prominent businesses coming together to discuss the position of women within the professional world.
Our particular session involved addressing and providing tips of women in finance succeeding, fulfilling their potential, and hopefully smashing their own ‘Glass Ceiling’.

The day also included various presentations and workshops including ‘Personal Branding’, ‘Returning to Work with Confidence’, ‘Goal Setting’, ‘Visioning your Success’, along with an opportunity to network (with a fine lunch on offer too).

Rather than offering tips based on theory, we addressed the topics of pay rises, promotions and smashing the glass ceiling via a set of real life case studies. In preparation for the day, we spoke with many successful women within the accountancy sector, and five main themes that acted as an obstacle of a potential promotion emerged illustrated through a case study and real life perspective.    

Theme 1 – planning & goal setting

We first spoke about a hands-on Finance Controller who always had aspirations of becoming a Finance Director. She built, trained and upskilled a very close-knitted  team whilst establishing a dynamic working atmosphere. The individual felt loyalty to her team but this conflicted with her long-term ambitions and personal goals meaning her eventual and amicable departure was long overdue. The learnings gathered from this particular example is to remember your personal longer term goals and why these were set - sometimes it’s an easier option to stay and not change the status quo / comfort zone but if you get an opportunity and the time is right then take it!      

Theme 2 – continuous professional development  

One client emphasised the need to ‘continually develop’ even though it may not be that relevant to your current role. She mentioned she was encouraged to register on a ‘soft skills’ course followed by a Prince II course which appeared irrelevant but these proved invaluable and a winning edge when shortlisted for another role and getting a pay rise in another business. It was a ‘you never know’ situation and she learnt to embrace all CPD as she continued to refer to her achievements on her CV and LinkedIn profile as a value add.  

Theme 3 – resilience and tenacity

Our conversations also brought this general theme to the fore with a particular case study focused on a client of ours within a practice who had returned from maternity leave and came second place twice when trying to gain a promotion and managerial position. Although she took the rejection badly, she though she should apply for one more internal promotion and finally got the role.

Her advice would be to not take things personally, gather full interview feedback, think and address any ‘learns’ from the process, embracing constructive criticism. She felt it was important to stay positive in front of your peers and not view things as ‘you weren’t the one who applied and didn’t get the role’ but rather than ‘the resilient one who was positive, loyal and openly wants to progress’.

Theme 4 – Proactivity and boldness

It seemed from our findings that fulfilling your potential was simply down to a mind-set and behavioural attributes. One senior candidate from the logistics sector thought she was being taken advantage of in terms of taking too much work on from other colleagues without any reward, recognition or advancement. The situation became untenable, ended badly with the candidate departing the business in a cloud.  The learning from this example is to be proactive and address problems before they become issues by being bold and confronting things earlier – this isn’t a weakness!

Theme 5 – Brand ‘you’

One candidate was asked to smarten her image as her role was to change and progress into more of a commercial finance and customer facing role. She became very resentful and nearly turned the offer of promotion down on principle. After much soul searching and asking family, friends and trusted colleagues she did adapt her appearance with less casual clothing and piercings.

Her decision to stay has since been rewarded with further promotion.  With hindsight, she feels there is certainly a need to differentiate yourself between the personal and professional, not be too self-conscious about your image and to adapt to different settings.  

We finished the presentation with a Q and A to the floor with additional real life examples and experiences which further illustrated the five themes above and provided a template to hopefully help everyone break their own glass ceiling.

For further insight about the progression of women within the finance sector, read our special six-part blog series. In the series we explore topics such as the role of education in encouraging more women to enter the field, snapshots of high-profile women in the finance sector, and a Q&A with our own Finance Director Nives Feely. Read blog series
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