4 Methods for Women to Boost Their Path to Leadership
I get tremendous satisfaction out of helping women grow in leadership roles, which is beneficial to both the women themselves and the companies that employ them. Research has shown that businesses with women in leadership positions perform better, and that having more female leaders in business positively impacts the economy.
Yet, progress towards elevating women to high-level positions is still slow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women held 50.04% of American jobs as of December 2020, excluding farm workers and the self-employed. Less than half (40%) of female employees are in a management tier, MSCI ESG Research found. And just 21% of women hold C-level positions, with only 6% having a CEO title. This represents missed opportunities for businesses and women leaders alike.
Moving the needle in the right direction will require systemic change in the ways women are viewed and treated in the workplace. However, we are not passive observers, and there are specific actions we can take to set ourselves up for advancement. I recently spoke about this topic on the Lead Up for Women podcast, and want to share four tips to help women refocus how they can champion themselves on their own career journey.
Be your own advocate. Women are much more likely than men to hope the quality of their work speaks for itself and wait for growth opportunities to be offered, while men tend to be vocal advocates for themselves. As a result, companies often view men as more interested and committed to career advancement – and men often get credit for work that their female colleagues played a significant role in delivering. As women, we need to be willing to take ownership for actively advocating for ourselves vs. passively hoping to get noticed. We need to demonstrate greater confidence in our potential, and not shy away from putting our names in the hat for roles that appear on paper to be a stretch. There are already too many inequities in the workplace for women (i.e., getting passed over for promotions, men negotiating for higher pay for the same level of work). I encourage female leaders to see the potential in themselves and be willing to step out, grab hold of opportunities and be their own proponents.
Do fewer things better. Women are used to thriving as multitaskers. We often pride ourselves on how much we can get done. But to be successful in leadership roles, women have to radically change how we assess our own effectiveness and let go of the “I can do everything myself” heroine mentality. It becomes less about focusing on how many tasks we can check off our list. Instead, it’s more about how we can prioritize the most important things to accomplish in our role and set our teams up to successfully take care of the rest. Remember that every time you say yes to something, you’re also saying no to something else. Make sure you are saying “yes” to the most important work for your career.
Be uniquely you. Sometimes our biggest hurdle in achieving a goal, like assuming a leadership position, is finding the courage to put ourselves into new or uncomfortable situations. Whether that’s speaking up in a meeting or assuming new responsibilities, we must take the leap – and do so in way that’s being true to ourselves. Be authentic, and trust that you have something original and meaningful to contribute. Know your strengths, leverage them well and do not be shy in seeking help where you need it. The most successful leaders don’t try to play a part or fit a mold, but instead leverage their uniqueness to make an impact and blaze their own trail
Find an employer that embraces leadership diversity. I advise women to take a hard look at how their company selects and assesses leaders for development. Does executive leadership only hire those who think, act and sound like them? Or do they value potential and seek people with soft skills like interpersonal sensitivity, the ability to motivate teams, humility, an openness to learn and willingness to accept feedback? And, is the company’s leadership team held accountable for ensuring that diversity and female representation is present in C-suite roles? Executive team diversity leads to greater innovation and more engaged employees. As a woman, you want to be sure you’re attaching your destiny to a company that recognizes the value of diverse talent and hires and promotes based on an objective analysis of individuals who are a best fit for the role—often women and minorities.
Women have fought hard to “get a seat at the table.” We must continue to advocate for ourselves to be in those seats and, once there, to speak up. That doesn’t mean changing who you are; it means being who you are by letting our capabilities and contributions shine. Make the most of that seat that you’ve earned – and which you deserve – and don’t let anyone else at the table silence your voice.
Is your company dedicating itself to empowering female leaders within your organization? Read our related blog.
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