Linda Napikoski (About.com, 2015) describes the glass ceiling as, "...most often heard in the context of women who cannot advance to the highest levels of power in the workplace. The glass ceiling is a way of describing whatever keeps women from achieving power and success equal to that of men." Recent studies highlight the notion that there is still a glass ceiling for women in the United States workforce and that there are additional barriers for women of color. As a Latina, I must shed light on issues faced by Latinas, including the glass ceiling.
There is ongoing conversation as to how the glass ceiling can be overcome, shattered, pushed, etc. Having the amazing opportunity to travel the country working with girls and women, I see and hear situations and experiences that represent the glass ceiling notion; I have even experienced it myself. However, I would/will not allow myself to be held back by the perceptions of others, including the "invisible barriers" that those perceptions fuel. In the same way I have broken through barriers of the statistics that I was born into such as: growing up in the projects of Spanish Harlem, NYC and being the daughter of a domestic violence victim and being poor -- I have and will continue to ask myself: "what glass ceiling?!" to be sure that I do not lose sight due to societal norms. It is important to stay focused on what I/we can achieve and work feverishly towards it, each day.
We must remember the significant historic journeys of marginalized groups such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Suffrage Movement which pushed barriers and expectations for African-Americans and women in American society. Similarly, women today -- especially women of color -- must take a seat at any table where they can bring value. You might ask yourself, how does one go about taking a seat at a table to which you are not invited?
According to my doctoral research, "A Profile of Latina Leadership in the United States: Characteristics, Positive Influences, and Barriers," there are several vital steps one can take to achieve success (Bonilla-Rodriguez, 2011):
1. Accessing higher education
2. Accessing training and development opportunities
3. Having roles models, coaches, and sponsors
4. Strong family support
5. A spiritual/religious foundation
6. Being confident in yourself
In addition, it is important to have a broad and connected professional network. It may take time to put these steps into regular practice and line things up for yourself but consistency, hard work and determination will ensure personal and professional growth.
Women can face barriers to achieving success in any sector of work and at any level of society. Therefore, we must ground ourselves in our values, potential to be change agents and being able to carry out a purpose in life. By preparing ourselves and focusing on positive opportunities, women will have stepping stones to climb the ladder of success no matter the circumstances. It can be of utmost impact to participate in opportunities like the Center for Creative Leadership Women's Leadership Program which focuses on what it's like to be a female leader, as well as programs developed by top educational institutions like Rutgers and Stanford Universities which also focus on women's development. Latinas can derive further encouragement and hope from the work of national organizations like the National Hispana Leadership Institute with a mission "To develop Latinas as ethical leaders through training, professional development, relationship building, and community activism" as well as local organizations like Chicago-based Latinas on the Plaza with a mission to "Enliven and enlarge your vision of who you are and what you want to achieve."
Carpe Diem, seize the day... today!