Four Ways To Shatter Your Own Glass Ceiling

Four Ways To Shatter Your Own Glass Ceiling

by Sara Connell (Reposted from

According to 2018 FreshBooks data, self-employed women, including female entrepreneurs and freelancers, earn 28% less than men.

When my friend first showed me this statistic, I was shocked. We hear plenty about women working in companies earning 25% less than men, but I attributed that trend to the remaining tentacles of patriarchal structure that forged much of corporate America. However, freelancers and entrepreneurs set their own rates.

Questions began to swirl in my mind. What was causing this glass ceiling? Were consumers not willing to pay women entrepreneurs as much as they’d pay men, or were women not charging the same rates as men for the same work? Did women undervalue their work? Were they afraid to ask for similar rates?

The subject of this self-imposed glass ceiling did not leave my mind. As I explored these questions, my surprise at the female-male entrepreneur discrepancy subsided. I recalled this 2014 Atlantic Monthly article on “The Confidence Gap” that reported women consistently undervalue their worth, skills and performance by 20-30% (men tend to overvalue by about the same amount).

Many studies have linked confidence to success, income and other performance indicators, so I started to realize that this confidence gap could be at the root of the income discrepancy. As a coach, I also know that when it comes to behavioral change, it is helpful (even essential) to become aware of a problem; however, that is only the first step toward a solution.

My next step was to see if I could identify a road map that would help my fellow female entrepreneurs smash the barrier above our heads and, by doing so, fulfill more of our earnings and leadership potential. After some starts and stops, here are the four steps that I have seen make a difference for myself and other women.

1. Research what the men in your field charge for the projects you deliver.

Conduct a Google search or a poll on social media, or ask male colleagues. Find out what the average male entrepreneur is charging for the work you do, and compare that number to your own rates. If there’s a gap, note it, and make a vow to smash that ceiling.

Here’s an example: One of my new clients has been coaching and speaking for over 10 years and spoke at TEDx. She makes about $200,000 per year. A male coach I know has been coaching half the time and also spoke at TEDx, and he is scaling to eight figures a year.

2. Reprogram your brain.

Charging more when we hold opposing (often subconscious) beliefs can be like swimming with a giant undertow. We’ll falter and perhaps back down. Before determining your new rates, time travel back to your early memories about money. What messages did you receive from parents, grandparents, community, school, religion and culture about your earning abilities and worth? Once you inventory those messages, circle the ones you still (on some level) believe.

Thanks to our brain’s amazing plasticity, beliefs can be revised. Write a new list of what you want to believe about yourself and your earning potential. Read those new beliefs at least 20 times a day, and visualize your life with that as your reality.

3. Add a zero.

A mentor of mine (who has smashed her glass ceiling) gave her mentees the assignment to “add a zero” every time they launched an offer. So if they were going to price something at $497, she’d tell them to up the value and charge $4,970. If they wanted to make $100,000 per year, she would say aim for $1 million.

A friend’s coach recommends something similar to his women clients. He suggests tripling whatever you need to cover your lifestyle; that will give you money for investments and launching new ventures (two things we see women pursuing less than men).

4. Get in the room with high earners.

For several years, I made only $20,000 per year as a coach. For me, the big shift came when I heard Tony Robbins paraphrase a quote famously attributed to Jim Rohn: Your wealth will reflect the five people with whom you spend the most time.

As a writer-coach, most of my friends and colleagues were also struggling. I found a mastermind with a mentor making seven figures a year and made up of women all earning six figures a year. After joining, I made $70,000 in nine months and have doubled or tripled my business every year since.

As an entrepreneur and artist myself, I appreciate how uncomfortable it can be to raise our rates and to stand confidently in our own worth. We have faced centuries of conditioning, oppression and messages that women are secondary. If charging more feels daunting, consider doing it not just for yourself, but for your daughter, niece or colleague.

The world will not change unless we change it. Every woman who closes the confidence gap and smashes her glass ceiling gives other women permission and modeling to do the same. Entrepreneurs, female and male, are inherently made for adventure and charting new territories. How wonderful would it be for the female entrepreneurs of the world to be the first to equalize the pay scale?