Breaking the Glass Ceiling: How Women’s Leadership Programs Pave the Way

breaking the glass ceiling women's leadership programs

How Women's Leadership Programs Pave the Way

Have you heard about the women’s leadership glass ceiling? The “glass ceiling” is a bit of a buzzword in the leadership circle, but if you’re not already familiar with it, it basically refers to the fact that a lot of women in the workplace are held back from advancement and career progression – often due to unconscious biases, stereotypes, and discrimination that leads to a lot of people thinking that women simply aren’t cut out to be leaders.

In actual fact though, this outdated and sexist notion of thinking could not be further from the truth! Although historically, a common misconception has been that women “do not have what it takes to become leaders”, research shows that women possess exactly the same leadership competencies and capabilities as men - and that in some cases, they even outperformed male leaders!

According to one study published in the Harvard Business Review, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 leadership capabilities they were assessed on. These capabilities included things like initiative, resilience, self-development, drive for results, integrity and honesty, development of others, inspiring and motivating others, collaboration and teamwork, communication, problem solving, boldness as a leader, relationships, championing change, setting goals, analytical thinking, and innovation.

It's time for women to break through the glass ceiling, and level up to become the leaders that they were always meant to be. Women’s leadership programs are just one of the ways in which up and coming female leaders can take the first steps on this journey to becoming a successful leader.

Here are some of the ways in which women’s leadership programs are empowering women, and paving the way for them to break through this glass ceiling that has held them back for far too long: 

  • They foster skills development: There are a number of skills and competencies that any effective leader needs to be able to motivate, inspire, and get the best out of their people – for example, emotional intelligence, decision making, influence, communication, interpersonal skills, resilience, empathy, and authenticity. Women’s leadership programs teach female leaders all these skills and more. 
  • They encourage ambition: Research shows that most women have leadership ambitions and are striving for career progression or a promotion. One report by McKinsey & Company indicates that nine in ten women under the age of thirty hope to be promoted, with one in four aspiring to become senior leaders. There are many, many other research studies out there that tell us the same thing, with another report from KPMG reporting that six in ten women aspire to be a senior leader, and more than half aspire to be a board member. Whilst it is encouraging to see so many up and coming female leaders out there who share this leadership ambition, this same report revealed that more than half of women struggle to see themselves as a leader. That’s where women’s leadership training comes in.Women’s leadership programs help to build women’s confidence, whilst fostering the mindset they need to become an effective leader. These programs are designed to help women to realise their leadership ambitions, whilst giving them access to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to be able to be able to break through the glass ceiling overcome the challenges and obstacles that are currently holding them back
  • They help women to overcome their own unconscious biases around women in the workplace. In one study from Yale University, male and female scientists reviewed job applications from male and female students, both of whom were equally qualified. Despite this, both consistently ranked the male students higher than the female students from a competency point of view, indicating they were more likely to hire men and considered them to be more competent than women. When we engage in women’s leadership training, we can learn to identify and acknowledge our own biases (we all have them – like it or not!) It is important that we can be self-aware and recognise these. Once we are able to do this, we can then do the work to overcome these biases that are holding us back from achieving leadership success. 
  • They build qualities like resilience, perseverance, and determination: These three qualities are must-haves for any leader, especially for female leaders who are likely to face a greater degree of discrimination and resistance in the workplace. Anyone in a leadership position is guaranteed to face challenges in their role, but a lot of the time, women leaders face more challenges than their male counterparts. For this reason, it is imperative that women leaders have the knowledge, skills, and resources to be able to effectively manage any challenges they are facing, whilst being able to “bounce back” from any adversity they may encounter.
  • They inspire women to become champions for change: It’s no secret that the world needs more female leaders. Women’s leadership programs encourage women to become champions for the change that they wish to see in the world, including by advocating for changes like fairer hiring practices, policies that promote diversity and inclusion, equal pay for men and women, and workplaces that are a safe space for women. Together, female leaders who support one another can do some great work in tearing down these barriers and creating the kind of change that we want to see as female leaders.
  • They inspire and motivate: A lot of the time, women’s leadership programs are run by fellow female leaders who have already achieved success. When up and coming female leaders can learn from and be supported by another woman in leadership, this can help to show them that “anything is possible”. What could possibly be more inspiring than learning from incredible women who have already broken through the glass ceiling to become a successful female leader?  

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why women’s leadership programs play an important role in empowering up and coming female leaders to break the mould and shatter the glass ceiling. Together as female leaders, we can continue to champion women’s leadership and foster more inclusive workplaces that empower women to follow their dreams and embrace their ambitions.


Caroline Kennedy is an award-winning CEO with a track record of leading multinational companies with up to $250 million in revenue. She is also the founder of Empowering Women Leaders: Awaken the Powerful Leader Within – a transformative eight-week program designed to help women master the art of leadership. If you’re ready to unleash your hidden potential and become the leader that you were always meant to be, find out more at au/womens-leadership-program/.

Leave a Comment