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The Glass Ceiling

In the summer of 1990, at age 24, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and left my small hometown Segovia, Spain, for Philadelphia, U.S., to do postgraduate studies. Did I see a glass ceiling then? No. I was full of enthusiasm and ambition and went on to study Applied Psychology in Business at Harvard and got a Ph.D. in Management at the State University of New York in Buffalo. My own case exemplified how women begin their careers as confident as their male peers. This idea about “confidence gap”, actually is more myth than reality. Based on my own research and experience, there are 7 unconventional strategies to break invisible barriers for a new generation of women.


  1. Feel comfortable with negative feedback. With MBA students, I found that men and women started off with comparable confidence, but women’s confidence in leadership skills dropped more after following negative feedback.


  1. Stay ambitious and seek further development. Failure is part of the learning process. When our mind-set focuses on growth, it is easier to recover from failure and turn bad news into opportunities.


  1. Don’t just ask, create your own opportunities for the next career step. Take ownership of your career turning frustration into positive action. When I decided to write my book, Yours Truly, Inegotiated with my employer for time and got the opportunity to pursue goals closer to my heart.


  1. Advocate for yourself by showing concern for others. Behave like a woman because imitating men’s style will not work. Our research shows that female leaders are expected to show more warmth and empathy than their male counterparts.


  1. Walk the fine line between humility and visibility. Show confident humility – recognize your limitations but also celebrate your success. Stay humble but do not be shy to speak about your accomplishments.


  1. Make time for family, your career will always be there. When I moved from Canada to Spain, I struggled to balance a growing career with family responsibilities. I decided to take a reduced workload with a corresponding 20% pay cut for two years.


  1. Take time for yourself. Many CEOs, mostly men, are devoting more time to their hobbies and studies have shown that “serious leisure” can make you a better leader.I started to get serious about leisure five years ago training for triathlons and competitive running.
Margarita Mayo

I´m Margarita Mayo. I´ve been a Professor of Leadership and Psychology at IE Business School since 2000. Prior to that I was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and professor at Ivey Business School. I feel passionate about scientific dissemination, and I have more than 20 years of international experience teaching courses on soft skills, giving keynote conferences and coaching executives on leadership development and change management. Always eager to help develop the next generation of leaders.

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