Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue that only a small percentage of female attorneys are given management and shareholder status, despite the fact that about 50% of all working attorneys are women.

Unfortunately, there are many other frightening statistics – women are paid less than men across the board and seem to fall off the grid five years into the profession, while our male counterparts rise up the career ladder.

These statistics are troubling and similar statistics arise from a lot of other industries. On a positive note, I regularly witness another reality where many females are evidentially successful entrepreneurs building great businesses. This leads me to believe that there are two parts to the issue – how society approaches the monetary value of females in the workforce and how we, as women, approach our financial value.

I confess that in my past, I have received and accepted ‘gender shaming’ from managing partners when I asked for an increase in compensation (i.e. I was not acting ‘ladylike’) and that I did not know my own worth in my own company. When I finally figured out my worth and asked for it, the consequences were career changing.  After watching female colleagues I admire overcome this issue and now having found my own power in my career, here are my thoughts on the nine qualities of a female leader who gets beyond the glass ceiling: 

1. We are entrepreneurial.

We want and need to have our own book of business and we hustle to get it. We are hunters, out looking for business so no one can doubt our worth. We’ll also fight to keep control of our business even if it means a change of business’ address.

2. We know what we are worth.

Ask most men how much business or money he made for his company last year and he will proudly tell you. Now ask a woman. Most do not know. Until 2013, I was one of these women. I blindly assumed that I was compensated fairly and I lived in a peaceful, blissful ignorance. Then it came time to re-negotiate my compensation and a quick look at the books showed that I was responsible for a much more significant portion of our revenue that I thought. Knowledge is power. Now that you know what you are worth…

3. We ask for it.

Statistically speaking, women in all professions are much less inclined to ask to be compensated in accordance with their value. The women I know who are rocketing to success have asked for what they want and if they have not gotten it from their employer – they went out and got it on their own. Asking for what you want is scary. Your boss/partner/colleague can say no or get angry. Or you could get what you asked for (even begrudgingly). If the answer to your request is ‘no’ you have been given an amazing gift – the truth. Your business does not value you. Unless there is a legitimate economic explanation involving complete financial transparency as to why you cannot be compensated fairly, you have to go. Many businesses have started for this very reason.

4. We know what we want.

When I started my first associate position at a defense firm I knew what I wanted: trial experience. I told my new bosses that I wanted every case in the office with an arbitration or a trial date within the year. I got them and I tried them all. This turned into three job offers in less than one year. When I made my next career move to the plaintiff’s side, my goal was even clearer: shareholder status with my name on the door. I made this absolutely clear.  If I was going to work for this law firm I was going to be on the fast track. You cannot get what you want, if you do not know what you want. And if you keep being told ‘no’ you know where you stand with your business: nowhere good.

5. We hustle.

As an associate and partner at a small firm, I worked long hours to be an attorney but I never forgot that being the ‘best’ attorney was not going to bring me in business. I dedicated time each day to maintaining relationships, searching for opportunities to expand my business, and making new relationships. Yes, it is hard work and many of us do not want to socialize a lot at the end of the day, but women who succeed make time to do this just like they make time to get their nails done.

6. We don’t make excuses.

We fail. We get fired. We lose cases. We win. We get promoted. That is the way of life. When you try – when you put yourself out there – you WILL fail sometimes. It is part of life. It is easy to win and succeed. If you want to know someone truly, watch them get back up after a fall.

7. We are innovative.

I have never had a problem that I could not solve because I usually find issues to be the perfect time for change. When I’m stumped, I call my mentors, attend seminars and Google random search terms until I find my answer or at least a lead. This has led me to solutions that were much better than what I did before I had the ‘problem’.

8. We are authentic.

The women – and men – I know who are the most successful are completely true to themselves. They are quirky, interesting, unique individuals who can be off-putting, tough, cranky, funny and inappropriate. They are not perfect. They don’t always say the right thing but they know who they are and people love it.

9. We help others.

All the women I know who are truly successful promote and support other qualified women so we can be the change we seek. Even if you are new to the profession you can and should help others.

How do you rate yourself on these nine qualities? Which of these are you strong in, and which will you work on?

Lyndsay Markley

Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley ( has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Lyndsay set up her own law practice in February 2014 and previous to this, was an equity shareholder at another established Chicago law firm. Her 2015 accolades include 10 Best Under 40 status from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, Premier 100 Trial Attorney status from the American Academy of Trial Attorneys and Illinois’ Rising Star status from Super Lawyers. Connect with @LyndsayMarkley on Twitter.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

7 Ways To Build Great Relationships With Your Team

The challenges facing new leaders in a business situation are many and varied. ...

15 Leadership Quotes to Help You be a Leader, Not a Manager

Sometimes you need a reminder and some inspiration to be a leader, not ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…
Leaderly Quote: The tasks you let go of…

“Shoulds” are tasks or obligations we take on, accompanied by an inner monologue that goes,

How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto
How to Write a Simple and Beautiful Manifesto

Traditionally, a manifesto is a written statement where you publicly declare your… – Intentions (what

Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more
Leaderly Quote: Leadership is not about doing more

You probably already had a to-do list longer than a CVS receipt before this global

What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?
What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?

Leadership is not about doing more. It’s about switching from doing to leading. From this

100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?
100 Leadership Qualities: What’s Your Signature Style of Leading?

There’s an entire industry of books and seminars founded on the assumption that if you

20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020
20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020

20 of our favorite leadership quotes by women At Be Leaderly, we’re on a mission

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays 2019

May your Holidays sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year

5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading
5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading

To become a leader, there is a series of key shifts in mindset and behavior

You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths
You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…
Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2022, Be Leaderly