Women and businessAlthough the glass ceiling metaphor has been around for decades as a way to refer to the difficulty women have in reaching top positions in their careers, top names in the business field have been debating whether it’s really still there. Data shows that women are gaining ground in several ways, including average salary, percent who hold management positions, and even women in high-profile jobs. So is there still a glass ceiling for women in business?

Women still haven’t reached equality with men in their earnings or the percent of managers who are women. In this sense, the workplace does not demonstrate gender equality. On the other hand, though, many families are seeing men step more into the role of homemaker, or share equally with women in these tasks so women can devote more attention to their careers. Women are also achieving higher levels of education now than ever before, so as these women step into the workplace and move up the corporate ladder, they are more likely to skew statistics in the direction of gender equality.

Just because statistics still suggest that women have a harder time excelling in their careers than men do, that doesn’t mean that you have to be held back by it. In fact, women often hold themselves back because they assume they won’t be able to get to these positions and, therefore, are less likely to try for them. If you’re serious about reaching high-level positions in your career and you push for them starting early in your career, you’re much more likely to reach them.

You also need to be aware of how you can protect yourself as a woman. For example, interviewers should never be able to ask you whether you plan on having children and taking that into account as they make hiring or promotion decisions. Your personal life is just that — personal — and it is illegal for employers to let it affect their decisions. You are legally entitled to maternity leave in most positions, and firing you because you’re having too many kids is illegal.

That said, you should also be aware that your roles at home may hold you back from your career. For example, many high-level managers are expected to work overtime or to travel. If you don’t have provisions for childcare in place, that may make it impossible for you to take these sorts of jobs. Therefore, your personal goals may affect your career, and that’s a choice you need to make early on so you can make plans that reflect what you really want.

The long and short of it is that gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and there’s plenty you can do to point it out if you believe you are being discriminated against. If you truly want to excel in your career, there is no real glass ceiling holding you back. You can move up the corporate ladder, and you can have the successful career you always dreamed of.

For a related TNJ article, check out A “Complex” Portrait.