The Women in the Glass Ceiling Panel

Last Monday, I was fortunate enough to attend the panel entitled “The Women in the Glass Ceiling,” held by Bucknell’s Unite and Inspire and Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The panel consisted of 5 Bucknell alumni women who were kind enough to return to campus and discuss inequalities and hardships they have faced in the workplace and throughout life post-graduation. I went in to the panel a bit confused; I was unsure of what a glass ceiling was and what advice they would be able to offer.  Regardless, I went into the session with an open mind.  


The women started off by reminiscing on their time at Bucknell.  They all spoke about their hours dedicated to their studies, but each of them emphasized that the biggest take-away from their four years here was all the students, professors and faculty who touched their lives in a positive way.  These connections are very real, and being a Bucknellian has genuinely changed their lives forever.  Whether it was a future job connection, a significant other or just a life-long friend, every woman on the panel highlighted the fact that Bucknell has expanded their network.  


With that being said, the conversation transitioned to their professional careers.  One woman started this by saying that her best piece of advice going into a career is to know yourself.  Know your strengths and definitely know your weaknesses because being self-aware will help you anywhere you go.  Observe how people react to you, and observe how to read certain situations.  Doing this will make you be more confident in your presence and your ability to express yourself in the workplace.  Trust yourself and take pride in the work that you do and overall, be your biggest fan.  There will be many people going against you, so it’s important to be confident in the work that you do.  Going along with that, the panel discussed that it is not only important to believe in yourself, but to also believe in others, especially other women.  This broadens your network, and is definitely helpful in the long run if you need support!


The conversation then moved to hardships that the panelists had faced in the workplace in terms of gender.  One of the panelists spoke about how she was discouraged for applying to an executive position by a male who happened to be another executive because he knew she would be going on maternity leave.  The panelist ended up leaving the company and never returning, but found out years later that many co-workers had heard about this incident and left the company in support of her.  Another woman on the panel discussed the term of the “boys club,” which was a concept I had never heard of before but had subconsciously felt.  The “boys club” refers to the residual idea of the antiquated concept of male dominance in the workplace and the underlying connection that it establishes.  A few of the panelists spoke to the fact that this is still present in the workplace, and said that this is a part of the reason why the “glass ceiling” exists which prevents women from getting to top executive positions in companies.  It is important to address these issues and confront them head on by being a confident leader and knowing yourself.  This is the best way to make progress and to make a difference.


The end of the panel was about how a lot of women have this idea that they need to, “have it all.”  The panelists emphasized that this is an unrealistic expectation and to not be too hard on yourself.  There is no such thing as “having it all,” but rather, it is important to do things that will make you happy!   


Overall, the panel really opened my eyes.  I had felt a lot of these same feelings before, but never was able to vocalize them because I always thought they were all in my head.  It turns out, there are a lot of women out there that feel the same way.  It is so important to make your voice heard, and to overcome ways of thought that perpetuate old-fashioned views of gender in the workplace.  By breaking the glass ceiling themselves, the women on the panel inspired me to break it as well.  It is essential to continue to spread the message and empower others, so go forward and encourage other women to lead in their industries as well!