Self-Imposed Barriers

Self-Imposed Barriers

Women working in competitive environments face many obstacles on their way up the professional ladder. Janet McGee, an assistant professor at the Department of Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership at the University of Central Florida, describes these problems in her study of female superintendents and other female educational leaders in the state of Florida. More importantly, McGee’s findings have implications beyond the field of education.

Throughout her research, McGee (2010) described how self-imposed barriers remain a major hurdle for many professional women. She argued that family responsibilities, lack of preparedness, and the lack of fit phenomenon are the major factors feeding into self-imposed barriers.

To further explain the realities of self-imposed barriers, McGee highlighted four themes that are relevant to women in other professions.

Theme 1: Women decide to pursue leadership positions later on in their career due to child- rearing and other family responsibilities;

Theme 2: Women wish to be well-prepared and tend to plan ahead to attain higher educational levels and gain more professional experience;

Theme 3: Women often lack time to network because they need to take care of their family and pursue higher education, often at the same time; and

Theme 4: Once women decide to pursue leadership roles, they become aware of their self-imposed barriers and adjust accordingly (McGee, 2010).

As you study these themes, I ask you to reflect on them and ask yourself if your values or present reality aligns with these findings.

As a mother of a four-year-old, I fully understand each of these themes. In fact, I find myself relating to each of them. Furthermore, each day, I take stock and ask myself if I am living up to my personal standards and values.

Am I making time for my family? Am I making time for myself? Am I making time to nourish my mind and my soul? Over these past few years, I have discovered that only a little adjustment here and there is needed.

On a final note, I wanted to share a great piece of advice given by Carol Bartz, president and CEO of Autodesk (as cited in McGee, 2010). She advised all professional women to build a “personal mosaic” of essential resources and experts. Bartz specifically recommended widening your professional circle to include experts in various fields such as networking, communication, time management, politics, among others. By building a “professional armour” women will not only be able to access a variety of experts, but also have a great support team which will help them strive and thrive.



McGee, J.M. (2010). To climb or not to climb: The probing of self-imposed barriers that delay or deny career aspirations to be an administrator in a public school system. Forum on Public Policy,1-22.


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Daphne Wallbridge



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