Top female business leaders reveal their unconventional strategies to breakthrough in a male-dominated workplace – The glass ceiling.

Gender equality in the workplace has become a much-discussed topic and recent movements such as #TimesUp and #MeToo have pushed the issue further into the light.

We spoke to some top female business leaders and authors, who have been shortlisted in this year’s The Business Book Awards, to find out their tips on how to break through the glass ceiling into a male-dominated workplace:

Practice ‘Strategic Laziness’

“Work hard but only on what matters. I’ve learned to be ‘lazier’ – to say no to things and to be aware that I only have a certain amount of energy to focus on things.

Bill Gates once allegedly said, that the best way to get anything done was to give it to a lazy person as they would work out the easiest, fastest way to do it.

Women often try to be perfect at everything. Remember, you can do anything you want but you can’t do everything. Set your goals on what matters and choose what is on your ‘to don’t’ list. As a leader, you must prioritise what you work on and do less to achieve more.”

Sophie Devonshire, CEO The Caffeine Partnership, author of Superfast: Lead at Speed

Don’t be afraid to speak up

“A few years ago I realised that on countless occasions men in the boardroom were claiming my ideas as their own. Now when I hear a man claiming my idea, I loudly and firmly claim it back with a smile and a friendly joke.

When you have the knowledge, trust yourself and your expertise. Speak up and you will not find it difficult to rise to the top. If you don’t do this before you know it a man will sail to the top on a sea of your good ideas.

So make sure you have your own boat ready to sail before they have the chance.”

Harriet Kelsall, author of The Creative’s Guide to Starting a Business


the glass ceiling
“Speak up and you will not find it difficult to rise to the top.”

Follow these seven strategies

“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.

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

Create your own opportunities for the next career step. Take ownership of your career turning frustration into positive action.

Advocate for yourself by showing concern for others. Behave like a woman because imitating men’s style will not work.

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.

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.”

Margarita Mayo, author of Yours Truly

Beware of tormentors

“There is one easy rule for breaking the glass ceiling – reverse what you know about mentoring. Everyone says a mentor can help you crack the glass ceiling.

Maybe so but keep an eye out for the opposite of a mentor. Look for a person who tries to block you, tear you down or challenge your right to be in a particular role. These people are called tormentors. They inevitably appear when you are doing your job extremely well. Tormentors are rightly afraid of you. Welcome, that confirmation.

If it comes down to a direct battle with a tormentor, remember that the workplace is competitive. Win when necessary. Visible victories against tormentors crack the glass ceilings better than anything else.”

Pippa Malmgren co-author, with Chris Lewis, of The Leadership Lab

Use Social Technologies

“When it comes to harnessing the power of social technologies, as natural communicators, women are biologically wired for successful social networking.

Whether focused on internal social networks – intranets or blogs, or personal social platforms, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, there’s an opportunity to build your digital footprint sharing insights, viewpoints, projects you’re working on and interesting insights you’ve uncovered, via articles, blogs, video or even live stream.

The content you share and how you interact with others, by osmosis, builds connections. Encouraging those interested in what you have to say to ‘follow you’, and importantly, get to know, like and trust you.

Not only a useful way of building connections for your personal development, but social channels also give voice, visibility, and recognition to women who may not ordinarily get the opportunity or air time.”

Michelle Carvill, author of Get Social

Exclusive content for I Am New Generation Magazine – The Business Book Awards, founded by Lucy McCarraher, celebrates the innovative and inspirational books authored by thought-leaders in the UK to help businesses thrive in an uncertain climate. 

Images – Pexels


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