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Breaking through the glass ceiling

As the old saying goes, "A woman's work is never done." Unfortunately, many women find this adage still rings true, particularly in regard to the workplace.

According to the AFL-CIO, the average 25-year-old woman who works fulltime, year-round until she retires at age 65 will earn $523,000 less than the average working man. The U.S. Department of Labor says that women earn roughly 20 percent less than men. Though women have made large advances toward economic equality, a disparity in pay between men and women still exists.

As if unequal working wages weren't enough, many women face barriers in finding jobs and advancing their careers. The term "glass ceiling" refers to the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.

Many women feel they have gone as far as they can with their employer thanks to a lack of options at the supervisory level, or an unwillingness of higher-ups to consider them for advancement.

As difficult as it can be for women to advance, there are ways to break through. In 2009, a report by Bloomberg News discovered that many women in top CEO positions earned substantially more than their male counterparts. Female CEOs of Yahoo!®, PepsiTM and KraftTM earn salaries as high as $45 million.

Despite progress, there are still many women earning less and getting left behind. There are strategies women can employ to change this.

* Be more aggressive in negotiations. When negotiating salary, don't be shy. Be aggressive when pursuing a salary that is commensurate with your experience.

* Get involved. Network with like-minded women who have already paved their own way in the business sector. Women working in predominantly male fields can develop networking opportunities that are enjoyable to both men and women.

* Find a mentor. Networking remains one of the key ways to advance in the business world. Relying on the experience of a mentor can help you with your career and the pressures that come with it. Seek mentors whose accomplishments you admire and who are willing to offer advice and encouragement.

* Start your own business. Women who find their careers have hit dead end smay want to consider going into business for themselves. This way they can spread their wings and be in charge.