- By Matthew Rosenfeld, VP/GM KSEE24/CBS47 and Chairman of the Board of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce
The term ‘glass ceiling’ was popularized in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article describing the invisible—but impenetrable—barrier between women and the executive suite which prevented them from reaching the highest levels of the business world regardless of their accomplishments and merits. This is well discussed in a 1995 report of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. The metaphor then extended to refer to obstacles hindering the advancement of minorities, as well as women.
Today, 27 years later there are many women and minorities in leadership positions, but studies still reveal barriers and inequities that affect them in business.
Moreover, after almost 3 decades it is evident that the metaphor has further expanded to reference any barrier or limit, controllable or uncontrollable, which stands in the way of our success.
In the past few weeks I must have used (or misused) the term ‘glass ceiling’ 50 times. Oddly, I don’t remember ever saying ‘glass ceiling’ on a regular basis much before that. Maybe I did. But see how it rolls off so easily now. If you’re counting, that’s 54 times.
I use the phrase in the context of raising expectations and pushing myself and my team to raise our collective performance by removing the barriers that limit our success. Beyond the original meaning of the term, I truly believe we all have personal glass ceilings or limits. Some of them are beyond our control, but there are many we either never reach to overcome or accept less than spectacular outcomes in the face of adversity.
Have you been pushed up against a glass ceiling? Are you pushing, and mentoring, your staff to stretch to find and break their own? Sometimes our limits are discovered in times of intense change during our careers. Maybe you’ve taken on a new role that is demanding and it’s given you the opportunity to learn where yours is. Maybe your employee is encountering situations that they have not addressed before and this has given them the opportunity to learn they need to work on some of their skills. Perhaps you’ve lost a key team member and the period of handling additional duties has opened your eyes to the limitations of other team members. These are all opportunities to understand your limitations, create a detailed plan to get the resources you need to overcome, and chart your path towards excellence.
If you are a competitive person, then you probably relate to this pursuit of excellence and personal growth. If we are not focused on growing and improving and becoming the best we can be, then what are we spending all this time doing?
Maybe Steve Jobs said it best. “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life.”
If you’ve chosen a path of continued professional growth, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce offers many opportunities and resources for you. There is one website that you can go to find descriptions of upcoming events, programs & committees: www.FresnoChamber.com.
Since 1885, the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce has been working hard to encourage growth and identify needs and opportunities of the business community. I’m certain you will see massive value if you get involved and learn what tools are available to suit your professional growth needs and help you to break through to a better you.