Besides coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, March brings with it a month long celebration of women’s history and accomplishments.  2011 is both an exciting and confusing time for women, as we’ve come very far in many ways (Hillary Clinton, Justices Sotomayor & Kagan), and not so far in others (Real Housewives, Kardashians and the recent attack on Planned Parenthood).

In the US, girls and young women have advanced incredibly and are doing well, if not better, educationally than their male counterparts and make up more than half the workforce. Many women today take for granted the struggle that so many of our predecessors endured until now, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Or do we?

According to the panelists at  Building a Pipeline to Women’s Leadership, although we have had victory in terms of legislating equal rights and the institution of policies and procedures at corporations and governments that uphold them, the day to day reality is another story.

We tell our girls and young women that the sky is the limit, that they have the freedom to pursue their dreams, but women often hit a brick wall when it comes to the top. With an average of less than 15% of the top leadership positions across all sectors, a glass ceiling continues to still exists, and for a variety of reasons, mostly that those already in those positions are too threatened or unsure of how inclusion will positively impact the bottom line, and that the demands of such jobs can’t accommodate all the demands put on women as primary caretakers.  A transformational cultural change is what needs to take place.

The good news is that wall is being taken down slowly bit by bit, old replacing new; another type of Changing of the Guard initiated by women requiring more work/life balance, and now almost demanded from the bottom up, as the millennials and great talent expect to have a certain amount of flexibility and freedom as part of the status quo and will seek it elsewhere if not found.

More and more studies are showing that as the world adapts to and honors the needs of women, everyone will benefit. This approach, combined with the various types of technology now at our disposal, is truly revolutionizing the way in which we work regardless of our gender.

So how to navigate your career in the midst of such change with the economy as precarious and unpredictable at best?  We can’t possibly imagine what jobs will look like in 2, 4 or 10 years (remember just 5 years ago we barely had smartphones, wi-fi, facebook and twitter!)  The only thing to do is to get in touch with and know what it is you offer and be the best at it, continually growing and evolving into the fullest version of yourself.

As I tell my clients and attendees, new opportunities, scenarios, companies and functions are sprouting up daily, so trust that the right opening will find you or you will recognize it when you see it. In the meantime, stay true to who you are, be the exception to every rule until it becomes the norm, and know that at the end of the day, it really is about a journey that we will someday be able to tell both our daughters and our sons what a long way we indeed have come.

P.S. I know this was a bit longer than usual, I’ll go back to my shorter, snappier version next week!

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