Secrets to Breaking Glass Ceilings
In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Lee Anne Crockett about navigating top corporate positions as a woman. Having encountered adversity when seeking promotions in a male-dominated industry, Lee learned the number of systemic barriers women face on their climb to the top of the professional pyramid. From her experience, Lee teaches us ways to outsmart the system, or more accurately put, to mastering the "game." From leaving emotions at the door to coming equip with a plan B, Lee points out that one of the ways to win is by knowing that there's a game to be played in the first place! And once we develop our game changing strategies, we’ll be able to checkmate. So, let’s claim the game, break some rules, boot the kings and check as Queens!
Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Lee Anne Crockett
Lee Anne Crockett, MBA, is a Sales Director for a large manufacturing organization and the founder of Lee Crockett Consulting. She has been leading successful teams for over a decade, with a focus in sales & business development. Inspired to make a larger impact with women, Lee Anne combined her passions for leading, coaching, and professional development with her MBA in Entrepreneurship and launched her coaching practice. There, she serves as a Leadership Development & Career Strategist and works with women leaders to get promoted faster. Lee Anne’s mission is to help other women shatter the glass ceiling and create their own seat at the table.
Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “The Continuous Struggle with the Gender Pay Gap”
Loved what you heard on herdacious and want to share with friends? Tag us and connect with HERdacity on social media:
Email: [email protected](dot)org
For up to date information on HERdacity events, webinars, podcasts, and community activities, join our newsletter here.
Disclaimer: While we appreciate our sponsors' support in making this show possible, herdacious content is curated with integrity and honesty.Support the show (http://herdacity.org/donate/)
Sponsor: Today's episode is brought to you by HERdacity. HERdacity is a non-profit inspiring confidence in women to achieve their professional goals. For resources, networking opportunities, and a strong community of women, visit herdacity.org to learn more.
Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. A glorious day to you all. Welcome to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make some moves on their career journey. And we here at HERdacious are here to help you. I am Lorelei, and I am very glad you decided to join us today because we're gonna be talking about the secrets to breaking the glass ceiling, and those ceilings need to be shattered. So put on your biggest heels or your most epic stomping boots and let's get to work. To help us with this work, we have sales expert, leadership development and career strategist, the founder of Lee Crockett Consulting, Lee Crockett. Hey.
Lee: How are you?
Lorelei: Fabulous. Fabulous, thank you for joining me today.
Lee: Thank you for having me.
Lorelei: It's my pleasure. I think we are going to have some really neat eye-opening conversation today because we all been talking about the glass ceiling. We all been talking about shattering the ceiling, they get shattered all the time, and I am super happy to have an expert talk to us about how career women can do that for themselves. But first, I wanna find out how you really got started in the whole leadership development field in the first place.
Lee: It's an interesting story. I started my career in sales and sales leadership. It was a really difficult time for me. I graduated from undergrad a year early, so I was 21, I was thrown into a pit of lions because I was managing all of these men who were my father's age, some of them could have been my grandfather, and I was this 21-year-old young woman who thought that I knew what I was doing. Leading a team of men twice my age or sometimes triple my age, and I had a really, really difficult time. I was really an underdog at different points in my career. I'll give you a list, but not only some of these, all of these at the same time: I was the youngest person, I was the only woman, I was the only woman in leadership, I was the only woman of color, and I was the only woman of color in leadership. So there was nobody like me for me to look up to or for me to model my behavior after. I had to really form a thick skin, and in retrospect, it's definitely been a blessing and it's like well into what I do now and how I am as a coach, but it was really, really difficult. Back then, what ended up happening is I tried and tried and tried to get promoted, and it just wasn't happening. I started looking around and eventually I felt like I was the only one in a room screaming, "pick me, pick me," and nobody could even see me. They couldn't hear me. I was just really invisible. So after a while, I kind of thought to myself, "There's something going on here." Because I was a model employee, I had great performance reviews, I was a team player, everybody had great things to say about me, but I just wasn't getting promoted. So I sat back for a while and really started watching the politics and the office dynamics and picking up on what types of people were getting promoted, what types of people weren't getting promoted, and I put together a little system and I said, "Let me try this out," and it worked. I started getting promoted, and I started building this system with my employees or with my mentees, and they started getting promoted.
Lorelei: What made you really hone in on supporting women through some of these tricky career hurdles that most of us will face in the professional realm? I mean, besides the fact that you personally experienced them yourself.
Lee: I think that personal experience is definitely my number one motivation, but outside of that, when I looked around there was nobody else like me. Not just a woman of color, but there were no women, period. For me to even figure out what the path looked like, there was no path for me to follow. I was just in the jungle, I had to carve out my own path. So when I think about that on a broader scale, and as I progressed through my career, there weren't a lot of women coming in behind me either, or the ones that were coming in, they didn't make it very far before they would leave and they would start a business or they would move into another career. So when I sat back and I actually formed my business and started doing this outside of a full-time corporate scenario, I thought about three really big things. That's what drove my decision to really focus on women. The first one is really understanding the gender pay gap and understanding that women should be able to earn what they deserve.
Lee: And that's not the case. So that was number one. Number two was really focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion, because if we're not in the board room and we're not in the C-Suite, we can't make decisions that are going to ultimately affect us.
Lorelei: Truth. Women deserve to be in all places where decisions are made.
Lee: Yes, yes. RIP RBG.
Lee: And then the third one was, when you think about the gas lighting in the corporate workplace, that's a huge driver for me. It's the lack of confidence. It's the self-doubt that women start feeling because they're tricked into believing that they've reached the ceiling, even though they're at a frontline leadership role. They feel like they need to just make do and be happy with what they have there. I'm blessed to have a job, I have a roof over my head, I have a salary, I should just be content with what I have, and that's not true. So those are the reasons why I decided to really focus on women and do what I do.
Lorelei: Excellent, well, we are definitely talking to the right person. Now, I wanna talk about the gender pay gap for just a second. You mentioned that as one of the main drivers for the work that you do, and I know that most of us have heard about this over and over again at work, in the news, on social, all the places. Help give our listeners some real life context as to what the gender pay gap really means for career women.
Lee: Yeah, that's a great question. We celebrate it, and I say that loosely because it's not a celebration at all, but we celebrated Equal Pay Day on March 24th. What that means is that in order for women to make the same amount of money that men made last year, women have to work last year, plus this year, till March 24th. And that's only white women. White women make 82 cents for every dollar that a white man makes. Equal Pay Day for Black women is on August 3rd, because Black women make 63 cents for every dollar that a white man makes, and Equal Pay Day for Hispanic women is October 21st. Because Hispanic women make 55 cents for every job that a white man makes. When we talk about the gender pay gap and what that really means for working professional women in corporate, the gap really widens by age and by job level. So when we think about that, you'll not only be penalized for being a woman, but you will be penalized faster, the older that you get. For employees that are 20 to 29, they make 85 cents for every dollar that a white man makes. Once you hit 30, between 30 and 34, you make 83 cents and then it drops dramatically when you hit age 45 and older, you make 73 cents to the dollar. And this is again, white women. There are other statistics for Black women and Hispanic women.
Lorelei: Is this compared to their white male counterparts of the same age?
Lorelei: Got it. Well, that's brutal. I love that statistic. Thank you for sharing. I'm gonna go hide in a hole for a little while.
Lee: The thing that makes it even worse is that was just age. When we talk about job level, the occupation that shows the most disparity between gender and pay gap and job level is in the C-Suite. It has the biggest data. Even if you are in the C-suite, women are making 70 cents to every dollar that a white man makes at the executive level.
Lorelei: Oh, that's good.
Lee: Not only are we not there, but that's also driving the pay gap because there are more men to promote faster, so they're inherently going to make more money at that level regardless of age compared to women.
Lorelei: Which brings us to the conversation around how we level the playing field for career women. Will you get us started in this journey?
Lee: Yeah, the first and biggest thing that we need to know is that there's a corporate game, and for the majority of us, we are not playing it.
Lorelei: What do you mean by, "we're not playing it."
Lee: For most of us, it's completely normal to expect that we don't know how to play the game, because for almost all of us, we don't know that a game even exists. Though the odds are stacked against us, we can't possibly be expected to perform well on any game, when we haven't been given the rules. But we don't even know that there's a game to be played in the first place, then we're completely on the sidelines and everybody around us who knows that there is a game and knows how to play it benefits. It's sort of the two-step process in getting the benefits of being on the inside of that circle.
Lee: Playing the game is really like playing chess. If you think about it that way, it's all about strategy, and the end goal is getting what you want, though for most women in this instance, it's getting the promotion and the pay that you deserve. You need to be able to have a really macro view of what's going on around you, to be able to navigate and to play the game. Like chess, you have to be able to anticipate other people's moves, one step, two steps, maybe even three steps before they happen, and understand that you can't control what other people are going to do, but because you're thinking about this strategically, you have a move up your sleeve. No matter what it is that they do, and however they move on that board, you're gonna be able to counter move in a better way. That's what playing the game is like.
Lorelei: I love your metaphor of chess, because all I'm thinking about now is how we gotta check the king, and that's checking patriarchy. Sorry...
Lee: No, I love that. Exactly.
Lorelei: Alright, so what's next after we start playing this game, we start recognizing that we're playing a game in the first place?
Lee: Once we understand that there is a game that needs to be played, we have to be strategic, and being strategic means that we have to check our emotions at the door. We have to understand that it's not personal, it's business. And it's a game. And it has nothing to do with talent. And when we really think about that, that's a real weight off of our shoulders. Number one, if it was about talent, we would all be CEOS, we all would have the position and the pay that we want and deserve and we already have checked the box. But because this is not about talent, think about all of the emotional baggage that takes off the table. We talked about all of the gas lighting that goes on, so think about how many of us have felt like we're not good enough, or maybe we don't have the experience we need, maybe we need another degree or maybe we aren't in the right industry, or maybe we're just not talented enough for all of these things that we're taught over and over and over by our bosses, by corporate, IARC, by all of these people. Every single day that we're not good enough.
Lorelei: Socialization in general, right? Just absolutely not enough.
Lee: Right, so if we learn that it has nothing to do with that, and it's just as simple as "this is a game," you just have to learn how to play. Because we know that we're super talented already, it's easy. If you think about checkers or chess, again, for the first time, you can learn the strategy of how to play that game. It is just following the rules, it has nothing to do with whether you're too emotional at work, or you're too angry at work, or you're not confident enough that work, it's just, these are the rules. This is how you play. And the longer you play, the better you are at it. And it's that simple. So when we don't have that emotional baggage as a qualifier on whether or not we're worthy to move up to that next level, we look at it as black and white. Just, I need to learn the rules of how to play this game and just stick to those rules, rinse and repeat. Then it's a huge weight that comes off of our shoulders, and like I said before, the biggest thing to note is that you can't control anybody around you. So you can't stop anybody from not giving you a raise or you can't control whether or not you get the project that you're looking for, or if you get the special assignment that you've asked for, but you can control how you react to that, like in chess. So if you don't get the raise that you deserve, then maybe that means that you interview at another company, or if you don't get the project that you asked for, then maybe that means you go to somebody else and find another project. But it's always about having a plan B, and like you said, how do you get to check that King? That's the ultimate goal.
Lorelei: Going back to the topic of corporate games, how do you see the good old boys club being connected to the game?
Lee: The Good 'Ole Boys Club is the OG game maker. And when we think about it, it's actually a genius idea because what is it essentially? It's a fraternity where they protect their own, they cover each other, they promote each other, they make sure that essentially, as a member of the good old boys club, you can't fail. And that's the best game of all. If you're in a protected elite club, where no matter what you do, you're still good, you're still gonna get promoted, you're still gonna get more money, you're still gonna get a better office, better title, a better car or whatever it is that you want. It's the best game around. So the good boys club is the originator of game makers. But when we look at corporate in terms of a hierarchy, if we think about it like a pyramid, the good boys club is on the top. This is an elite crew that we know that we're not in. I always tell people, our clients when they ask me this question, if you have to question whether or not you're in the good old boys club, you're not in it.
Lorelei: You're either in or you're out.
Lee: Most of us are out. The next step down is the Fast Track list, and that's exactly where we wanna be as a game player. An active participant in this game that we call office politics, that's where we wanna be. The bottom of the pyramid is where everyone else is, and that's where most of the people are. So when we think about the privileges that you get or the opportunity for promotion, if we rank them, the good boys club is number one with an exclamation asterisk everything. The Fast Track list is number two. And then the bottom of the pyramid is number three. So if the bottom of the pyramid is the majority of people who have either noticed that there's a game being played, they kind of see things. They have that gut feeling, they see something's going on in the office, but they don't know what it is, meaning they know there's a game. But they don't know how to play, they're stuck on the sidelines and they're on the sidelines with all of those other people that we just talked about before, who don't even know that there is a game to be played. As you move up to the corporate pyramid, the ones who are playing the game, fast track list people and the good old boys club members, those are the ones who are gonna get the pay and the promotions that they're looking for. But that's why knowing that there's a game is so important, it's really understanding that the real world that you think is happening is not actually happening. It's almost like a matrix moment. Like red pill, blue pill, you have to know that there's something else that's at work here and things are not really as they seem on the outside.
Lorelei: On that note, we're gonna take the blue pill and pop back into the matrix for this sponsor break. We'll be right back.
Sponsor: Hi, Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie-pop duo. If you enjoyed the intro-music, we invite you to listen to our debut EP Honeymoon. Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music.com for more.
Lorelei: And we're back talking with Lee Crockett on tools to break the glass ceiling. Lee, now that we know we're playing the game, now that we're kind of getting ourselves out of the matrix to figure out what's really going on around us, how do we start to level up in our careers?
Lee: One big thing that we all need to know in terms of leveling up in our careers is that we do not want to apply for promotions. Promotions are 95% of the time already filled before they're posted. And this is where people get upset with me because they say, I applied for this promotion, I interviewed, I did great, I'm being considered for this job, but I didn't get it. Right? And that's why I say, "Well, because it was already filled." So here's what happens: When there's a role available, it's gonna go directly to Boys Club members first, or this is where people are going to pull from an opportunity for somebody in the boys club to move up. Say they're a Director, and there's an opportunity for them to move to VP, one of them is gonna get the role. If none of them are in a place where they're going to step up in their careers right now, or maybe there's no interest or whatever may happen, then they're gonna move down in that corporate pyramid we talked about into the fast track list. If there's nobody available or interested from the fast track list, then they will pull from everybody else at the bottom of the pyramid and then select a candidate from there. Most of the time what happens, and I can give you a real life example, is the role is filled before it's even posted. But by the time you see it, there's somebody else who's already negotiating salary and discussing very seriously.
Lorelei: Give us that example.
Lee: Yeah, so I was tapped on the shoulder in one of my positions to relocate. I interviewed, accepted, negotiated salary, did all of the things, and then a couple of days later, I saw that the role was posted internally and externally. So my boss approached me after that and asked me to fill out the application for a role that I already had, and when I asked why, he said, "It's just so everybody can check the box," and essentially it say for them that they can went through the official interview process. That I was interviewed the right way and that all of the paperwork is in order. So there were people who applied for that role, and by law in most situations, they have to be interviewed. And that's how you create those people who get upset with me when they say, "Hey, I applied and I interviewed and it went really well." But like I said, they don't get it because the role already belongs to somebody else. So we don't want to apply for promotions, we wanna be on that fast track list and get tapped on the shoulder.
Lorelei: Got it. Now, after listening, digesting the information you're sharing, while I am very aware that we have structural and institutional barriers to women's career success, what might we women be doing to sabotage ourselves and not really know it?
Lee: There are a few things that we definitely do to sabotage ourselves without even realizing that the things that we're doing are detrimental and hurting us. One of the biggest things is what I call the concept of work versus the right kind of work. When we think about that very simply, you can spend eight hours today working on a project that's gonna make your company millions of dollars, or you can spend eight hours today just filing emails. One of those is work. One is the right kind of work. In a lot of ways, worthless work or just busy work can dig you really deep in a hole instead of allowing you to climb out towards promotion.
Lorelei: Share an example of what this could look like for somebody.
Lee: I had a client... We'll call her Sarah. Sarah told her boss one day that she had extra time available and she asked if he needed help with anything around the office. Right, so Sarah's boss had a deliverable that was coming up on its deadline, and he said, "Well, sure, you can help me by running this report so that I can get everything done on time." Sarah got super excited. She said, "Yes, I'd love to help." Because in her mind, she thinks I'm going to be able to showcase my skills and get promoted. So, Sarah stays late every day the next week trying to get the report done, and while she's doing that, her boss is leaving early every day because she's doing the report for him. She finishes it, she gives it to him, he presents it to his leadership team and he gets great reviews, and he doesn't give Sarah any credit in public. But in private, this is the gas lighting, he praises her and asks her to do another project for him. And Sarah's thinking, "I did great. If I keep doing these things, I'm going to get promoted." So she takes as many assignments as she can from him...
Lorelei: I can see where this is going.
Lee: MHm. Let's really, really think about it though, because if Sarah does this for some time, her boss gets so used to her taking things off of his plate that Sarah doesn't become promotional talent. She becomes an admin, so whenever he has something he doesn't wanna do, he gives it to Sarah, and Sarah's gonna take it. She's going to do it very well and she's going to do it quickly because she thinks she's gonna get promoted. So what she's actually doing is keeping herself stuck because her boss... We talked about how our direct bosses can isolate us from the rest of the corporate department or company. The hierarchy, if you will... So if he promotes her, then he can't go golfing, he can't leave early, he can't do all of the things that he's used to doing by having this extra support. So what incentive is there for him to promote her?
Lorelei: Besides being a good human being?
Lee: Exactly. So Sarah is doing work, but it's not the right kind of work to showcase her skills as promotional talent.
Lorelei: It's crushing. Alright, well, after hearing about how many work-related things that so many of us just aren't fully in the know on like the inherent politics at a current workplace, these covert and implicit rules that exist, it leads me to believe that the system is fairly well stacked against many of us. What makes you think we can affect positive change through our actions?
Lee: That's a great question, and I don't think that we can. I know that we can. I know that the work that I have just seen personally, the work that I've been able to do with my clients affects positive change in so many ways. And most of it is just by banding together and being transparent with each other and sharing stories. Letting each other know that we're not alone in the things that we've been through, that we share similar experiences, being open and honest about the things that we've seen at work, whether they're right or not right, but just coming together and sharing those stories and laying it all out on the table is one thing that is going to affect tremendously positive change in the world. And that's why I spread my message about the game and knowing that there is a game, because the more people who know that there is a game and learn how to play it, will inherently move from the bottom of that pyramid to that fast track list. And the more people that move from the bottom to the fast track list are the more people who get tapped on the shoulder, and the more people who get tapped on the shoulder means eventually, the more women we have in that executive suite, which is going to lend better to equaling the pay gap. It just becomes more and more amplifying the more and more that we push.
Lorelei: I love that, thank you for helping us end on a super positive note. But before you go, share with our listeners a few of the resources that you recommend to help them get their stomping on on those glass ceilings.
Lee: Yeah, two great resources that I would recommend to learn more about the gender pay gap would be payscale.com. They do a huge, extremely thorough published report every single year on the gender pay gap. They're able to splice the data any which way, age, race, anything. Income, etcetera. And equalpaytoday.org is another website that I would recommend that's gonna give you just really quick and easy little charts on Equal Pay Day and the gender pay gap.
Lorelei: Excellent, thank you for that, Lee. Lastly, we turn to this episode's femme fact. As you might have learned by now, we like to be a wealth of knowledge to the HERdacious community whenever possible, and this femme fact will be no exception. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Fun. Sexual assault awareness. Well, what can I do except continue to raise awareness because this issue is so huge, it requires an entire month of education. Some of you may recall the massive outpouring of concern and outrage and just flat out disbelief... Well, I take it back. We totally believe it... That flooded the internet when Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old UK woman, went missing while walking home at night at the beginning of March. She was found dead a week later. The suspect, a 48-year-old police officer named Wayne Couzens is thankfully in custody on charges of kidnapping and murder following these events. Women across the UK and other Western countries have been speaking out regarding the safety-minded behaviors that they must implement in everyday life just to avoid assault or harassment by men. Things like walking with keys between our fingers, locking cars immediately upon entry, avoiding night trips all together, the purchase of mace, batons, even firearms. These are just a tiny example of the wide array of conscious decisions women must make to ensure their own safety in their own communities.
Now, I'm not here to get into the details of what women should do to prevent sexual assault, because truth be told, women should not have to be taking these steps in the first place. The primary facet of this conversation around sexual assault is men learning to respect women, our bodily autonomy, our physical, psychological and emotional safety, and thus eliminating our inherent need for women to act as our own round clock walking security systems in states of hyper-vigilance. Reducing the risk of sexual assault and violence against women starts with what our society, our parents, guardians and school systems teach boys during adolescence. Sexual assault education for many girls and women revolves almost exclusively around prevention methods, which I'm sure many of you have heard so many of these safety tips during your lifetime. Things like, "Don't let your drink out of your sight," "Don't wear anything provocative," "Don't walk home alone at night," "Where shoes that you can run in," "Text a friend before you go out to exercise," or "Text a friend before you go out on a date with a stranger." I mean, the list goes on. According to research conducted by Planned Parenthood, parents talk more with their daughters than with their sons about sexual assault and consent. Furthermore, the result of this education, or this mis-education, has led to widespread confusion for boys and young men on what exactly sexual assault and consent really are.
I think it's safe to say that we know the consequences that this lack of information has had on women, but to further put things into perspective, here are a few stats that really hit home. In the UK, 97% of women ages 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed. 96% of those women did not report it because they did not believe it would lead to any resolution on their behalf in America. Every 92 seconds a person is sexually assaulted. One in five women and one in 72 men will be raped at some point in their lives. In the United States, one in three women and one in six men experience some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. And fun fact, perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Annually, rape cost the United States more than any other crime at a shocking $127 billion price tag, followed second by assault at $93 billion, then murder at $71 billion, and then drunk driving, which includes fatalities, at $61 billion. As a side note, the prevalence of false reporting is very, very low. Now what can be done to combat some of these really shockingly high rates? Though education isn't the only solution to eliminating sexual assault, research suggests that it does have a sizable impact.
A few examples include programs targeted at young men like "Coaching Boys into Men" and Promundo's "Manhood2.0." The former is a program focused on high school male athletes whereby athletic coaches teach and model healthy behaviors, emphasizing the need for respect. Evidence shows that high school students who have participated in this program were better at recognizing abusive behaviors than their peers who did not participate in the program. Promundo's Manhood2.0 is still undergoing evaluation in Washington DC, but the goal of the initiative is to obstruct the harmful masculinity standard, by engaging young men to challenge harmful gender norms that can often lead to sexual assault in the first place. And we gotta be really clear, these toxic toxic messages that young boys and men learn about what masculinity is, is just as harmful to them as it is for their female counterparts. The reality and scope of sexual assault can easily be something that is discouraging, but I would like to leave you with one more statistic that might just be the light at the end of this very dark tunnel. We are making progress. The rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63% since 1993, which is no small feat. And while Covid is setting us back a tad, it is important to think that the overall trend of sexual violence is on the decline, and we can point to many social movements, including the one that occurred in the UK, where we talk explicitly about the concerns of women in their communities around the issues of violence. So go forth, my friends, be good allies, spread awareness and most importantly, make good choices. And let's talk about consent with our young men, 'cause they are gonna be the standard bearers for our next generation where hopefully we end sexual assault. And April can be an awareness month about something nicer, like kitten care awareness or puppy dog potty training awareness or something a lot more awesome for April. Lee, it has been an incredible conversation today. I hope I didn't bring it down too much with our sexual assault awareness fact. I really appreciated your time and your energy today. I really do think lot of our listeners got a big boost and are ready to go smash some ceilings with the tools you've provided us today.
Lee: Yes. Get your heels on ladies. It was so nice to be here. Thank you so much.
Lorelei: My pleasure, I'm Lorelei. This is HERdacious. If you like our show, please subscribe, share with a friend. Post it on the socials, do all the normal things. You're welcome to send me an email at [email protected] And yes, I'll link to that, as well as the resources, in our show notes. I know my email is really long and probably complicated to spell. Until next time, get your game faces on. Ladies, we got some patriarchy to smash.