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CareersDespite changes in the corporate world in the last few years, career and promotional opportunities continue to reflect traditional, male-dominated models. Despite the fact that women make up an estimated 4.6% of board members in Pakistani companies, female participation in the workforce stands at approximately 28%. Furthermore, despite the fact that nearly seven million women entered the workforce between 2000 and 2011, they are concentrated in certain occupational groupings and are under represented in management.*

One of the main barriers in the career progress of women is the ‘glass ceiling’ (vertical gender segregation). Yet, according to Rebecca Shambaugh’s bestselling book It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor: Free Yourself From the Hidden Behaviours Sabotaging Your Career Success (2007), the real obstacles to women’s advancement are right below their own feet – the ‘sticky floors’ – self-limiting beliefs, assumptions and behaviours that hinder their ability to break the middle-management bottlenecks that keep them stuck near the bottom half of the ladder.

Shambaugh attributes women’s self-limiting behaviours and beliefs to two key issues: false assumptions and lack of information. She suggests avoiding or rising above a sticky floor by:

  1. Looking inward. Realise and accept that you are trapped; conduct an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. Be clear about your values and set goals aligned with those values. 
  1. Having a plan. Build a career-life plan to maintain focus and accountability; share your plan with others for their input. Be open to asking for help. 
  1. Not letting fear stop you. When faced with fear, examine what is the worst possible scenario; overcome your fears and reinforce your inner confidence and self-esteem

Given that research has concluded that organisations with more women on the board and senior executive teams increase innovation and positively impact the bottom line, companies should proactively address the sticky floor.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, e-learning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com

(*Sources: 1. A February 2011 Report on women in the boardrooms 2. The World Development Report 2012 3. 2011 Pakistan Employment Trends Report – Pakistan Bureau of Statistics)

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 8, 2015.