Breaking the glass ceiling: How business women can 'Make it Happen'

This year's theme for International Women's Day - which takes place on Sunday March 8th 2015 - is 'Make it Happen'. This has a variety of meanings and applications, in the context of recognition and advancement for women around the world. One of the most relevant, from a UK perspective, is in terms of career advancement for female professionals and breaking the glass ceiling. Many business women are still held back by their gender in the workplace, despite efforts to clear obstacles.

All too often, talented candidates believe they are hampered by the existence of breaking the glass ceiling at the top-level. This means that, no matter how skilled and experienced they are, and how much leadership potential they have, the pathway to the boardroom is difficult to navigate.

It is 45 years since UK lawmakers legislated to ensure equal rights in the workplace for men and women, so why is there still a gap? The continued existence of a pay gap between men and women has an overwhelming dominance of male professionals, especially in the FTSE 100 chief executive roles. Sadly, you can still count the female executives on one hand.

Many employers and managers have taken steps to promote female career development to help try and shatter the glass ceiling perception and provide advancement opportunities for talented women in recent years. There still exists a perception that many women lack the confidence of their male counterparts to succeed. However this is changing, as we continually see women succeeding in business, despite often feeling obliged to make a choice between a fulfilling career and happy family life. Technology, however, has helped enable flexible working, giving women the opportunity to find the balance between work and home.

What changes are needed?

So what can be done in 2015 to help business women achieve the successes they desire? If real change is to come about, both employers and professionals themselves need to work together. The government wants to see 25 female CEOs in the FTSE 100 by 2025; how can more female professionals elevate themselves to executive level and earn the salaries they deserve?

Organisations must 'Make it Happen': to ensure the glass ceiling is shattered and women are given equal opportunity to take on new responsibilities, gain experience and show their leadership potential - irrespective of their personal choices. Hiring decisions must be made based upon talent alone and the value that candidates can add. Businesses also have to help women by being more flexible, and by investing in training and mentoring for high-potential candidates.

Female professionals need to: take decisive action. In 2015, determined, ambitious female candidates can and do reach the boardroom. If women continue to pursue their ambitions and are supported by their employers, family and society, then more will succeed. This will help reduce the gender pay gap, which at present only reinforces negative perceptions about the career opportunities available to women.

Another step women can take to breaking the 'glass ceiling' in their CVs is by seeking new qualifications, skills and experiences and by targeting positions of responsibility. Being prepared to change jobs and climb the ladder, as well as pushing employers for training, mentoring and development support will help women succeed.

In a growing economy, employers are desperate to boost their teams with the top talent, irrespective of gender. And with organisations looking for ability above all else, there are career development opportunities for the taking.