5 WAYS I BROKE THE GLASS CEILING

5 WAYS I BROKE THE GLASS CEILING
BY: DEENA LAMARQUE PIQUION
2018

Why Me?

The term “glass ceiling” dates back to the 1980’s but is unfortunately still relevant today. The glass ceiling is an intangible but often powerful barrier to women’s advancement into senior leadership positions. Breaking the glass ceiling is about being the first or one of the few to accomplish something – a C level appointment, a senior management position, a political office seat, etc. I currently lead the Latin America and Caribbean Division of a Fortune 100 tech company. I have sales responsibility and full P&L ownership for a $1B division.  I’m the first woman in my company to hold this position and one of the few females in my peer category across the industry. The glass ceiling is reinforced in Latin America due to the additional layer of machismo culture that is pervasive in this region. But, the truth is, even in
the United States, we still have a lot of work to do.

Why Now?

So what are the facts? At the current rate of progression, women won’t reach pay equality with men until 2058. World Economic Forum ranked the US 49th in gender equality, scoring behind Nicaragua, Cuba & Belarus. Iceland is #1.

Our celebrated female soccer players play on sub par turf and get paid a fraction of rates that their male counterparts get paid and ONLY if they win while men get paid for showing up.

The restaurant industry (52% women) is the only industry where we allow workers to make below minimum wage since their wages are supplemented with tips. Where female workers are often harassed by their customers and they have to grin and take it to earn a decent wage.

Women hold less than 20% of seats in Congress, 25% of seats in state legislatures & only 6 of 50 Governorships.

56% of professional workers are women but only 26% of the computing workforce are women. 1.1M new computing jobs are expected to be created by 2024.

Women own only 5% of our coveted and innovative tech startups and this is our future.

Only 4.6% of S&P 500 companies have women CEOs. 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women.

On average, women CEOs are paid 11.5% less than their male counterparts. In general, women make just $0.78 for every dollar men make in the United States.

Why Not You?

It’s 2018! We are 2 years away from women celebrating 100 years of voting power. Our social media feeds are filled with the harsh realities women still have to deal with in some workplaces via the #metoo and #timesup movements. The quit rate for women in tech is twice that of men.  So, I decided to start a blog and share with you some of the wisdom I’ve gained over the years on the path to breaking my own glass ceiling, because we all need to shatter it in order for it to break for good.

There is an awakening among women right now, and many are asking Why Not Me? I’m here to give you what I believe are the tools that will help you explain Why Not You? when that next opportunity presents itself.

How I broke the glass ceiling?

I strongly believe that a successful career breaking the glass ceiling depends on your soft skills and your character. Here are the 5 ways you should know:

1. Be true to yourself
2. Use communication as the key to professional and personal growth
3. Understand that confidence starts with courage and accountability
4. Leverage emotional intelligence as your driver
5. Move from surviving to thriving

One of the most valuable tools to unlocking your potential as a leader is understanding who you are. Before you can be true to yourself, you need to know yourself. This requires some soul searching and self-awareness. What are those values that are intrinsic and most important to you? What are the mental and moral qualities unique to you?

I’ve done this work with the help of some the resources I’ve listed and I’ve narrowed down my values to those below:

Authenticity, Generosity and Strength

Authenticity means I don’t change my values or my style depending on the audience or
situation. I’m honest but respectful. I speak my mind but in a calm demeanor. I don’t shout but I do express my disappointment and I do take swift action when I believe the team needs a change.

Generosity means I believe first and foremost in being a decent and empathetic human being. It’s important to me that my team, my company, my family and friends share these values. My most important job on this Earth is raising kind, decent and generous children. We believe in giving back to the communities we serve and practicing gratitude. Paying it forward is a key tenant in living a generous life.

Strength means I have learned to make the hard decisions necessary to advance. Staying stagnant is not an option.   I face problems head on and running away is not consistent with my character. I also have the strength to live a balanced life, managing my sacrifices and work life balance. I have hard-set rules about family priorities that I won’t miss (birthdays, anniversary or first day of school for example) no matter how important the business meeting or trip may be. Any time I feel myself pushing these limits that I have set for myself to ensure I have the right balance in life, I go back to #1 and remind myself to be true to myself.  People around you will respect it and if they don’t, you will find a team or company that does.

Communicating Effectively

Communication is foundational in both your personal and professional growth. The ability to communicate effectively is priceless to your partner, your team, your company and your life.

I also believe in addressing the elephant in the room and communicating about issues or concerns promptly.  For example, I remember my first Director level interview. The timing was horrible, my son was sick and going through treatment but opportunities like these didn’t open up that frequently in my company. I was the natural internal candidate but I still had to sell myself. I was in the interview with the exiting incumbent (male) and the hiring VP (also male). I knew what they were thinking but didn’t want to bring up so I addressed the elephant in the room and opened up the conversation. I explained how I knew I could rock at this job even though my son was sick. I leaned on my track record for success and my ability to use the tools around me to manage my temporary family situation.  Ultimately, they needed to be reassured that I had my head in the game and that I could handle the job. Staying true to myself and addressing this head on in the most direct but respectful manner possible probably helped secure my appointment in my first executive level position. Proving you can communicate effectively even in difficult or uncomfortable situations is paramount.

Understand that confidence starts with courage and accountability

Business (especially at the senior levels) is still a man’s world and one of the most critical success factors to breaking the glass ceiling is demonstrating your confidence. By confidence, I don’t mean being cocky or rude, I mean displaying your courage and accountability.  Displaying the confidence to take on a challenge, admit a mistake, build and coach a team to success – these are the moments where true leaders shine. In order for you to truly shine, you will need to ensure you display the courage to take risks and the ownership to be accountable for your wins and losses equally.  Your last mistake is your best teacher, own it and learn from it but don’t let it discourage you from taking the next calculated risk.

Leverage emotional Intelligence as your driver

The art of leadership is the art of adapting to inspire the best in those around you but still being true to yourself and your style. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. This is one area that women have often excelled and we need to promote. Emotional intelligence is now moving to the forefront of leadership development. It is now accepted in the business world that:

90% of high performers have high EQ and 58% of your job is dependent on EQ

Improving your EQ is even more critical to your success than having a high IQ. Do the work on becoming self-aware as it will only help drive your EQ up. Teams look to be inspired by their leaders, the more empathy you possess, the more you will be able to truly inspire. Remember sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. Being able to put yourself in your team’s shoes will drive you to higher ground as a leader.

Pay it forward

We all want to make an impact. High impact leaders are characterized by 3 common elements – passion, persistence and kindness. It’s almost impossible to truly leave an impact on your organization without all 3 of these characteristics. One of the most basic ways to display your kindness as a leader is to pay it forward by identifying and developing talent. Once we break the glass ceiling and reach these coveted positions, we must pay it forward. Be a mentor. Mentorship often ranks #1 when women are questioned about what could influence girls in becoming more involved in tech. Be that mentor. Encourage open dialog about work life balance. It’s the elephant in the room so just address it. Demonstrate and promote examples of people who have had made it work – both men and women. Be intentional. Diversity should be important to you because it’s good for performance. Companies with at least 3 women on their boards outperform those with none with 66% higher return on invested capital, 53% higher return on equity, and 42% higher return on sales. If better performance is important to you, then diversity should be a priority. Pay it forward so we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

I’m paying it forward by sharing my story and insights. Share yours and your feedback on this blog by contacting me!

DEENA LAMARQUE PIQUION

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