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Working Women: How to Break Through the Proverbial Glass Ceiling

Working Women: How to Break Through the Proverbial Glass CeilingWhile women hold almost 52 percent of all professional jobs in America, they are substantially underrepresented in leadership roles.

And with women making up only 14.6 percent of executive officers and 8.1 percent of top earners, it's important for women to take the leap and push through the glass ceiling. Here are five steps to help women push the envelope and drive their own success.

Think Bigger

As you start out in your career, from entry-level positions to middle management, your job is about executing the responsibilities at hand. Take the ideas and strategies of others and implement them.

Once you break through middle management, jobs typically transform into roles of delegation, determining what needs to be done and leading your team to exemplary implementation. Being successful at this level requires more than a good work ethic and knowledge of your task at hand, as well as a global understanding of your work environment.

To make the transition from entry level to executive, you have to change your mindset and be open to professional development opportunities — even if they don't seem to relate to your current job — and stay on top of the important trends and news within your industry.

Take Initiative

Rising to the top is not a passive feat. You must be willing and ready to take charge. If you want to be a company executive, you can't sit back and wait for someone to ask you for something. Figure out what needs to be done and do it, unprompted.

Find Mentors, Sponsors

A mentor is someone with whom you can build a professional relationship, and can provide knowledge and insight into areas you don't currently possess.

They provide support, both personally and professionally, to help you develop your career. A mentor is not typically an executive in senior management, but rather someone who has been in your shoes and has enough experience to lead you to be a guiding light toward success.

A sponsor, on the other hand, is in a senior position and has decision-making capabilities. This is someone who can help you move up the corporate ladder and is willing to advocate for you. If you don't have people in upper management who are rooting for your success, you will continually face roadblocks and, most likely, failure as you seek upward mobility.

Take Risks

New experiences are key in providing opportunity for personal and professional growth. In order to reach higher levels within your professional environment, you must push through your comfort zone and take risks on a regular basis.

One key to being a successful risk taker is to release your fear of failure. Failure should not be something that holds us back, but instead propels us forward.

It's only in failures that we can identify what doesn't work and try to succeed in a different manner. You can read hundreds of books (and you should) to further your career, but nothing quite prepares you for the real challenges and struggles to success as failure does.

Know Your Obstacles

As you break through the glass ceiling, you are sure to encounter obstacles, both fair and unfair. As a woman, it's likely you will face discrimination in the workplace.

Instead of allowing this to prohibit your success, develop a plan to educate yourself on strategies to overcome discrimination and combat ignorance as you rise to the top. And, do your part in educating younger generations, so that when you do break through that glass ceiling, you shatter it and leave it wide open for future generations of women.

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