Following my LinkedIn Live on Tuesday where I talked about knowing your worth and the differences between men and women when it comes to salary negotiations and setting prices in business, I’ve received some heartfelt, sad, and difficult messages from women talking about experiences in their current workplaces that are impacting their confidence levels and their ability to stay in the role.

We must do better!

Glass Ceiling: – noun: an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.

The first time I was asked to deliver an address at a women’s network, it was on the topic of Glass Ceilings and the issues I had faced throughout my career in competing with men. I explained that I had never encountered this issue (that changed years later) but I could give my opinion on the differences between men and women when seeking a new role or a promotion from an HR perspective.

Typically, women will wait until they can do 100% of the role outlined in the job description, whereas men will typically apply if they can do 60% of the role. Men talk in interviews about ‘I’ and women focus on ‘we’.

Research has demonstrated that often throughout school females outperform males, we work hard and receive recognition through the grades we receive. When we enter the world of work, we assume that our efforts will continue to be rewarded in the same way. For some, this is the case but for many, our efforts may go unnoticed because we aren’t promoting our successes and showcasing our talents in order to get the recognition we deserve.

From the definition above, we see the Glass Ceiling as an invisible barrier. I always believed I could achieve whatever I wanted to and so far I haven’t been proven wrong. However, there are still some organisations, where glass ceilings are a reality and in some cases, this can mean that we have two ceilings to break through – the one we create for ourselves and the one that others create for us. Organisations where you need to be in the ‘club’ in order to get promoted or recognised, thankfully this is changing, but not fast enough.

Another concept is the ‘Glass Cliff’ and this refers to women who have made it to the top, but due to lack of time, support or resources are quickly pushed off, whereas males at the top appear to be given more time, with more money and additional resources to ‘fix the issue’. At this point, we see women jumping before they are pushed – think recent UK Prime Ministers and women Interim CEO’s who were passed by for the role.

I have been lucky to have so many inspirational female role models in my life, at home, at school, in education, and at work. I attend events with inspirational female speakers who have made it to the top and are succeeding in their roles. My network is filled with inspirational successful women. The great coaches and mentors whom I have worked with have been inspirational successful women. No ceilings, just striving for and reaching success, although we all have different views on what success looks like.

In 2013 I was at a two-day development workshop where at the end of the first day there was a panel discussion. One panel member told an outstanding story. She worked in London and had just been made Partner in a large consultancy firm as the first woman to do so. She had worked hard, broken the ceiling, and achieved what she wanted to achieve. She did speak about the ‘boys club’. In some of the nights out, she felt like an outcast because she wasn’t engaging in brandy and cigars although she had been recognised for her skills, talent, and hard work.

In 2014 I attended an event with 300 women at the London Business School where there were a host of fantastic female speakers, all of whom were either CEOs or members of Boards in International and Global Companies. The common theme they all spoke about was working hard to encourage more women into senior positions as they acted as role models to show it could be done.

Two speakers displayed their frustration at questions from the audience about juggling motherhood with a career. They both responded by asking if questions of fatherhood and a career would have been posed to male speakers.

And just yesterday in 2021, I spoke to a coaching client, who has been feeling this ‘boys club’ for a while. The recent D&I report for her company states that women are overlooked, undervalued and underdeveloped and she is the only one at her level with a Head of title instead of that of a Director – she’s now looking for a new role.

Throughout my career, I have strived to remove barriers and boxes from the workplace. Our own beliefs can hinder us as can psychometric testing that excuses our behaviour or limits our growth just because we are female.

I hold a strong belief that we each hold the answers and resources within us to achieve what we want to achieve. If we want to aim high, we need to stop creating barriers invisible or otherwise, stop confining ourselves with labels and stereotypes and be ourselves. The more we believe in ourselves, the less we will be limited by ourselves and others.

Top Tips for breaking the glass ceiling:

  • act like there are no barriers, boxes, labels or limits
  • believe in yourself and your own ability
  • find an amazing coach or mentor to get you to the next level


Kelly is an Executive Coach for CEO’s and CPO’s who want to change the world of work at and Founder of The Chrysalis Crew.

She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.

Two people walking on a glass ceiling


  • Kelly Swingler

    Executive Coach to HR and People Leaders and Founder of the Chrysalis Crew

    Kelly Swingler

    20+ years in HR and Leadership roles have taught me that we can only change the world of work when we start by looking at ourselves.  When our thoughts, actions and interactions are aligned with our values we can ditch the old school management speak and out of date management and leadership frameworks and lead from the heart, aligned with our mission and purpose.