Breaking Through The Glass Ceiling: Wisdom from High-Achieving Women

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.
– Hillary Clinton

9 out of 10 Americans agree that gender equality is very important.

A study published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy shows that a more diverse set of employees gives organizations a more diverse set of skills, which can help the office function better.

Researchers found that shifting from an all-male or all-female office to one split evenly along gender lines could increase revenue by roughly 41 percent.

Analysis of a global survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries suggests that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance:
“Companies with 30% female executives rake in as much as six percentage points more in profits.”

Meanwhile, the McKinsey report, Diversity Matters, found that companies with greater gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their “respective national industry medians”.

There’s further research by Catalyst showing US Fortune 500 companies with more women on their boards tend to be more profitable. On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 53 percent.

Luckily,  sixty percent of recruiters are women and 40 percent of HR and recruiting leaders are male.

With all this in mind, we looked at the wisdom of some women who have broken through the glass ceiling and are forging a strong path for women in business.


“This is the ultimate chicken and the egg situation. The chicken: Women will tear down the external barriers once we achieve leadership roles… The egg: We need to eliminate the external barriers to get women into those roles in the first place. Both sides are right.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead


“Educational equality doesn’t guarantee equality on the labor market. Even the most developed countries are not gender-equal. There are still glass ceilings and ‘leaky pipelines’ that prevent women from getting ahead in the workplace.”

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile



“Ignore the glass ceiling and do your work. If you’re focusing on the glass ceiling, focusing on what you don’t have, focusing on the limitations, then you will be limited. 

Ava DuVernay, Film Director


“If you can find something that you’re really passionate about, whether you’re a man or a woman 
comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.”

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo


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“Find work that gives your life meaning and don’t let anyone dissuade you from pursuing it. Constructive action is the best answer to prejudice. Your hard and excellent work will speak for itself. Rise above the insults; calmly and professionally point out the fallacy of their arguments.”

Emily Carter, Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Princeton University


As individuals, we can put cracks in the glass ceiling. But when you invest in the women around you, you create the collective force needed to not just crack, but shatter the glass.”

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture



“We need more women in business today to represent our consumers, to bring a different point of view and to contribute with a different leadership style, but unless companies and countries make cultural shifts to adapt to this new reality, how can we expect to make progress?”

Umran Beba, Senior Vice-President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Global Human Capital Management, PepsiCo