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Guest Author Mariana Gaviria

This expert perspective is brought to you by:

Mariana Gaviria

Business Development Manager

Central Colombian born and raised
In Bogotá is where I spent most of my days

Chilling out, maxing and making arepas
Moved to LA to try and make the Lakers
Cut cause I’m short, so went to business school
Then left for Vancouver as I heard it was cool

I work with non-profits, events and tech
No soy tu niña bonita
I’m the Business Development Manager at Alida

You’ve done the schooling, you’ve done the work, you stayed up late, you dealt with the kids, you are crushing it. Your track record  is impeccable: you have 99% of the skills required to smash the next rank. . You check our account at the end of the month and see you’re just not quite there yet. Jerry ranks instead. Sound familiar? 

You’re not alone. More than ever before, women are graduating from university, entering the workforce and creating jobs by starting new businesses. However, the glass ceiling is strong and only starting to crack. Women are not reaching leadership positions and are not earning as much as men do. In 2020, the Fortune 500 Global List showed how only 13 of the 500 companies were led by women, and those women are all white. Fact: Women’s pay is still 21 percent below men’s pay in equal positions. 

The Cinderella Syndrome 

The pay and leadership gender gap starts with a women’s first step into the working world. One of the potential causes is The Cinderella Syndrome, an idea honed by NPR journalist and host of The Indicator by Planet Money podcast Stacey Vanek Smith. 

In her book, Machiavelli for Women, Vanek Smith suggests that, as the fairy tale goes, women are not actually being deprived from attending the ball (or making their first sale/hitting the next rank). The Stepmother allows Cinderella to attend the ball as long as she scrubs the floors, hand washes all the dishes, irons all the clothes, organizes the pantry and sorts it alphabetically and by calorie count, and then, if she actually finishes all of this, then she can make her own dress and find a way to get to the ball. Like Cinderella, women looking to advance get stuck in this situation plenty of times, but instead of a passive-aggressive stepmother, they have generations of a non-inclusive, unconsciously biased and dismissive culture to deal with. The culture norm of household chores puts women at a disadvantage before they’ve even started. For social sellers, this is an all too familiar story, it’s why many seek direct sales in the first place because it was almost impossible to manage working two full time jobs (one at home and one in the office).

Cinderellas can’t break glass 

Men are more likely to be taken seriously when they start a new business based  on their potential, while women only get a shot after crossing off the whole to-do list. That still may not be enough, Vanek Smith explains that even confident women lack the confidence men have to even take the leap(in part because of the weight of their other responsibilities holding them back). Men will jump at an opportunity with only  60 percent of the required skills, while women won’t start until they have 100 percent and even then, they hesitate. 

Throw a pandemic into the mix and women are far less likely to reach those leadership positions. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Study 2019 more than 2 million women are considering leaving the workforce. That is if they have not been laid-off already. Women of color are especially in jeopardy with the massive impact of COVID-19 in the black community and how they are

already the victims of most microaggressions. Let that sink in: 2 million less women climbing up to chip away at that glass ceiling. 

However, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. The study also states that “If women are promoted and hired to first-level manager at the same rates as men, we will add one million more women to management in corporate America over the next five years.” From a direct sales perspective, what would happen if more women were actually supported when they started a new business?

Cracking the ceiling 

If the glass ceiling is still that high up, how do we get to the point where we can shatter it? For starters, let’s not lose the momentum. You’re already used to performing at 110 percent? Don’t be discouraged, use that to your advantage. The only way to combat and prevent The Cinderella Syndrome is by taking action in the best way Cinderella did, showing the world who she really is. 

Make a plan & Do your homework 

There’s no need to have your whole life and vision board laid out for the next five years. If you do, great and keep at it. But if you don’t, let’s start small. It’s important to have some clarity of where you want to go because you will need this information to kickstart your advancement. Do some homework and research the position and monthly income you want. Remember, you only need 60 percent of the qualifications to feel confident enough to try. 

If you go for that next level and it doesn’t happen, get factual. What do you need to do to get there? Ask for specific and measurable goals that you can achieve. When you achieve them, if you still don’t hit the next level, then maybe that’s a sign that you need to look elsewhere. 

Find people already in the position you want and connect with them. Vanek Smith recommends reaching out and making it about them: How did they get there? What did they have to do? What would they do differently? This type of research might help you find a mentor, who can potentially guide you towards achieving your goals. 

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Be gentle with yourself & Don’t take it personally 

There’s so much to unpack when it comes to women in leadership today: Harassment, gender gap, discrimination, biases etc. If you find yourself in a position where it seems Cinderella is taking over, I recommend a little compassion with yourself and others. This is not our fault. This is the result of a sexist culture that didn’t know better and is just now starting to wake up. 

Policy is slowly starting to support inclusivity in organizations, with ideas like transparent pay disclosure and unconscious bias training and education. But policy alone is not going to change culture. You must know that you are as deserving of your future success as the white man next to you. Cinderella’s glass slipper represents her true identity, so that when the Prince finds her, he can see her for who she really is. We may not be able to shatter the glass ceiling any time soon, but we can wear the glass slippers, and like Cinderella, be our most confident self in them. The self that continues to prove that women in leadership positions positively shape the business and culture of companies.

*I work at Alida but my views are my own.

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Penny.

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