In this first “official” podcast, I introduce what the Leading Ladies Of…Podcast is about.  I talk about the glass ceiling and how – even though it has changed – it is still preventing women from reaching higher levels in the workplace.  I then delve into the ways in which the glass ceiling has inspired women, and why it’s important that we reach back and help those behind us in the journey, using courage and sharing our imperfections to accelerate progress.

I’m blessed to have met so many amazing women who have had my back, women who have shared their secret sauce with me and contributed to my success.  These women – and many more I have not yet met – need to be put on loudspeaker.  The collective knowledge and shared experience WILL be a powerful force for smashing the ceiling, and I can’t wait to see what we create.

From the depths of my heart and soul,

Fiona (Ceiling Breaker)

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Read the Show Notes Here: Introducing the Leading Ladies Of…Podcast, with Fiona McKay

It’s time to smash the glass ceiling!

Hello everyone and welcome to the very first episode of the Leading Ladies Podcast, where inspiring women share their stories and advice for breaking the glass ceiling.  It is my honor to bring this to you, I feel both called to do this, and privileged to do this.  For me, Leading Ladies is more than just a podcast.   It is a mission.  A way of life.  A way of Being.  A way of creating the future that I want for myself and other women.

So what do I mean by the glass ceiling?  I’m sure most of my listeners will have heard the term, as it is a well-known metaphor for the artificial barrier that keeps women from reaching managerial and executive level positions.  The term first became popular following a Wall Street Journal article in the 80s.  And still, to this day, there are well documented difficulties faced by women when trying to move to higher roles in male-dominated industries.   The problem is that barriers are often unwritten things – accepted norms, implicit biases.  And some of the ceilings stem from within us.

The Podcast is dedicated to creating a community that challenges that.  It’s an opportunity for women to reach back through and help the women following them up the ladder, on a much bigger scale than one to one conversations.

We’ll talk about the what and the how of the podcast later – but first let’s start with the why.   Why am I starting this podcast?  Why am I betting on this with my personal time, commitment and even my own money?  Why are Leading Ladies from around the world – many of who I have never met – stepping forward to help me promote this?  For me this is a culmination of decades of curiosity and many years of work.  As you’ve probably guessed from my accent, I’m British.   And my curiosity about women and social expectations stared on a miserable school day in England…in the rainy town of Blackburn, Lancashire.  You might have heard of it from the Beatles – the place with four thousand potholes.  Anyway, this particular school day was a dreary day for many, but for me it was perfect.  A perfect day for an outdoor gym class where cross-country running was on the cards (something I would NOT look forward to today).  The day was made even more perfect for me as I raced past several members of the boys’ football team as I approached the finish line.  I felt pure delight at the looks on their faces, a look of horror that they were being beaten by a girl!  Since the day I’ve been intrigued at the idea of being the woman that does the unexpected.  The woman that shows up where typically men are expected.

Now when I was in high school, it never really occurred to me that there would be actual barriers to doing this.  It was only when I joined the workplace, and specifically aerospace, that I realized there could be roadblocks for me because of my gender.  Today I have a bunch of examples that stand out for me.  And I’m going to share the less risqué ones

  • Being out with my male colleagues for dinner and the entire conversation being about football and beer – something I knew nothing about and hence was ignored for the entire meal.
  • The times I’ve sat down at conferences and been overlooked by the men at the table – until they caught of my business card.
  • Walking into conference rooms with twenty men and one woman – me – and feeling distinctly different.
  • Having someone turn to my male colleague and say ‘great job buddy’ for an idea that was actually mine.

Sound familiar? I’ve heard stories from women all over the world that have experienced similar things – and far, far worse.  In fact, at a recent brunch with a friend from the tech industry it was summed up perfectly: same shit, different industry.


Since the 1960s things there’s no denying that things have changed significantly for women in the workplace, with a huge increase in the number of women, and types of roles they hold.  Women can now be found in industries, occupations and roles formerly only associated with men.  But there’s still a lot of work left to do.  The pay gap still exists.  The number of women in senior leadership and C-suite positions is still terribly low.  And I think that its fair to say that in many cases it’s still not a level playing field for women.  In many industries, there are cultural and structural barriers that still need to be broken.

And there’s things that women also need to take ownership of.   A Forbes article by Terina Allen discusses how women unwittingly contribute to the glass ceiling by holding back in negotiations, being risk averse, undervaluing their talents, not owning their power, shying away from conflict and having a greater fear of failure.  If you’re listening and you aren’t guilty of any of those, then more power to you.  But I’d bet money that over 99% of you identify with one or more of the list.  We all have work to do.

So where to start?  Well, we can follow in the footsteps – or in this case, stilettos – of the women that broke the glass ahead of us.  We can create a community.  A community where we speak openly, honestly and without judgement about what is really happening and how it makes us feel.  A community that comes up with solutions to the problems we face and holds each other accountable for being the change we want to see.   For some of us, today this is achieved through mentoring.  But if we consider that women make up 52% of the workplace, but ONLY 14% of management and 4% of C-level positions, there’s clearly not enough of us to go around.  And that’s where the Leading Ladies Of Podcast comes in!

The Leading Ladies Podcast is a place for women to share their experiences as they have risen through their career.  It’s a place where those of us that have made it through share our tips, tools and strategies for breaking the glass ceiling.  A place where you can tune in and be mentored by women from around the world and from all walks of life.  I’m going to be bringing in a variety of guests for some frank and heartfelt conversations. I’m going to be sharing my own view points and my own experiences – The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Such as the time I was advised that was making men uncomfortable by standing too close to them when working in Indiana.  I had no idea that personal space norms were different in the US.  I was mortified.  And the time I had my first big management failure and spent all weekend convincing myself I would be fired on Monday.  What a waste of a weekend! 

Why share these things?  Because they part of being human.  They were great learning opportunities, they shaped who I am today.  I’m still a little embarrassed about some of them.  But I’m also proud of the fact that I’m not perfect.  Perhaps if we shared our imperfections more, we would spend less energy on worrying and redirect it towards cracking that ceiling!


Ultimately, I really, really hope it grows into something bigger – a community of women providing support to one another.  A community that develops the confidence and resolve to take on some of the cultural and systemic issues we are facing with passion and grace.  A community that says ‘the numbers may be low but I’m going to be a part of the change.’

So what kind of ladies will you be hearing from?  Well, it won’t just be any lady, it will be a Lady who I call a ‘FIMAC,’ a nickname a male supporter once gave me.  So what is a FIMAC?

  • A woman who is committed to changing the FUTURE for all women in male dominated industries
  • A woman who takes action to INFLUENCE change that creates a positive impact on others
  • A woman who MODELS what it means to have compassion and courage in the workplace
  • A woman who ADVOCATES for ALL workplace diversity
  • A woman who has the COURAGE to CHALLENGE the status quo

And occasionally, I’m going to invite male FIMACs to come and speak.  So while we are on the topic of men, let’s address the elephant in the room.  This podcast is not designed to be a man-bashing exercise.  In fact, I want men to want to listen this podcast and be part of the movement to break the glass ceiling.  Why?  Because there are men in my career who have made a huge difference to me, stood up for me, believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.  You who you are.  Will, Tony, Avinash, Justus, Jason, Hazim, Howard, Richard, Rom, Andrew, Adam, Berny, Bennet.   And many, many more.  And I truly believe the best workplaces are those where men and women work side by side, appreciating each other’s differences and empowering each other to show up as their best selves.  Studies show that the more gender balance there is, the more successful an organization is.

Anyway, back to the Ladies.  Throughout my career I have been blessed to have been introduced to so many women who have rooted for me and advised me and had my back.  From my early days on the board of Rolls-Royce Women, through to the amazing line up of women I’ve met since relocating to Seattle.  And today the thirty plus women I have the honor to serve alongside as an advisor to A-WING – Aviation Women Inspiring the Next Generation.  And I’m going to start by sharing some of these women with you.  My first ten guests are all women who have had a positive impact on my life.  So it’s no surprise that I’m starting with women of aerospace.  It’s what I know.  It’s what I’ve loved. It’s where I smashed the glass ceiling – and got some serious scars along the way.  Some self inflicted, some caused by others. And it’s an industry that lags behind many others in creating gender balance.

Even if you’re not in aerospace, or you’re a man. I have no doubt whatsoever that the stories and advice that you’ll hear will profoundly impact you.  We will be talking about many of the universal challenges we face, such as dealing with labels placed on us by others and sometimes ourselves.  We will be taking about allyship, doing our own inner work, embracing failure and much, much more.  We have some real treats in store and our first five interviews will be live as we launch the podcast.  So here’s what you can expect from the first five episodes…

We’ll be taking about redefining a woman’s experience of power:  Where does it come from?  How do we build on it? How can we use it for good?  Another topic we will be looking at is how to embrace our diversity.  How to recognize the moments when being different is an advantage.  How to not let our differences hold us back.  And some great ideas on how we can use our mindset to our advantage when faced with adversity.  We’ll be talking about what is means to be more than: how to embrace that we are more than just businesswomen and co-workers and partners.  How to deal with micro-aggressions such as being diminished? And how do we work with male allies to create change?  And we will also be looking at the phenomenon of how like hires like and what that’s meant for women of color in the workplace.  And more importantly, what we can do to change that, build relationships, advocate for one another.  And to maintain grace for ourselves and others with those who’s opinions on women and minorities will never be changed.  Imposter syndrome is also a term that many of you will be familiar with and in episode six we will learn how one woman overcame this.  We’ll learn about the inner work that we can do for ourselves to tackle it, and how some of the uglier parts of our story are key to this. The giant leaps we can take when it no longer holds us back.

Breaking the glass ceiling and supporting other women is a vast topic and there are so many things for us to learn together.  If there’s a topic you’d like to hear about, or a woman you think needs to be heard on loudspeaker – perhaps it’s even you – then please get in touch.  Let’s design this together. 


Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Leading Ladies.  My reason, my commitment, my motivation for doing this.  If you enjoyed listening to me, then you’re in for some serious fun with our next five episodes.  I had such a great time interviewing our first few guests.  The vulnerability, the power, the love, the shared experience.  It was quite overwhelming.  I know that many of you will listen and feel the same.  For that, and the women I interview, I am forever grateful.

This is the Leading Ladies Podcast.  I am Fiona McKay.  One of my greatest goals in life is to see more women embrace their value and get what they deserve in this world.  I wish all of you courage and compassion on this journey