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The Double Pane Effect for Executive Women

Response to McKinsey’s "Women in the Workplace 2019" which demonstrates that women remain significantly and increasingly underrepresented the higher one looks in organizations.

Once again, McKinsey & Co’s Women in the Workplace reports that even those organizations committed to gender diversity are not achieving their goals. By now, no doubt exists that society imposes a glass ceiling on women. The question on everyone’s’ mind is how to eliminate the glass ceiling or at least help women break through it. Advising even well-intentioned companies to double down on their efforts, while needed, seems insufficient for making substantial progress.

Double pane glass ceiling

In our work with women leaders, we discovered that in many instances’ women can break through the glass ceiling. But to do so, they must first break through another and interconnected pane of glass. This difficult to see second glass ceiling is comes from the fear of being judged as someone of lesser value, which can keep women from leaning in and breaking through. Our interactions with executive women through Diagnostic Thinking (DT) Groups - a unique approach to group coaching for women - reveal that once women find, frame and formulate their own personal glass ceiling and have support from the group, they can not only break through that personal glass ceiling, but also through society’s as well.

Women’s Diagnostic Thinking Groups

What does breaking through look like? On average, executive women in DT groups increase their salary by 40%, 70% receive promotions, and 100% report substantially higher confidence within six months of joining a group. At first blush these numbers seem unbelievable. So, what is going on?

Women, on average, have many natural business strengths that can make them attractive and valuable contributors at all levels of organizations. Creativity, collaboration, and caring are highly desirable in today’s organizations and women tend to naturally excel in these abilities. Moreover, recent research indicates that women can bargain and perform on a wide variety of business skills as well as anyone. So, abilities are not the impediment as they can provide advantages in many settings.

The statistics

Well-known biases, micro aggressions, and discrimination are important culprits in creating the glass ceiling. Yet, these impediments get amplified through an internal dynamic. All too often women fear being judged, dismissed, wrong, not good enough, etc. These fears keep women from leaning-in, negotiating, and taking some of the difficult steps needed to shatter the glass. For instance, a recent climate survey of over 9,000 economists reports that women are about twice as likely as men to avoid taking vital steps on the path to promotion in order to avoid the possibility of discrimination, unfair treatment, or worse. By not taking such steps many women face this additional second glass ceiling and fall into being characters in someone else’s narrative instead writing their own story.

Executive women who want to write their own story

Executive women can rise to the occasion and bust through both panes of glass. We have learned that doing so requires a specific set and sequence of steps. Because seeing the second glass ceiling is difficult, collaboration with a small group of women and a coach can help find, frame, and formulate each person’s specific challenge. We have discovered that successful collaboration of the group requires water-tight trust, committed coaching, and fearless follow-through. By providing the conditions that create these circumstances, women can write their own story even in a world in which society’s glass ceiling exists.

If you want to get started in a Diagnostic Thinking Group to learn how to define and shatter your personal glass ceiling, start by taking the Free Core Values Index assessment below!

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