Women at the Top: More than an Inclusion or Diversity Need
It is not uncommon to hear about gender differences at the workplace. Although many companies have implemented various initiatives regarding this matter, equal opportunities for growth and development are still a challenge. This is nothing new.
Women are underrepresented in top positions. According to Forbes and to a report by Pew Research, only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up only 5.2% of the female population. (2018). There is still a gap to close regarding pay for women vs men with the same job and qualifications.
Definitely inclusion and diversity strategies at the workplace have helped women among other minorities to come around and climb the ladder or break the so-called glass ceiling.
But is it that only what it takes for women to succeed today? Are we just being promoted or given more opportunities and responsibilities because nowadays it is critical for companies to find a balance and check the box for having more women in their numbers?
It definitely helps, yes, we all agree, but it takes more than that.
“She is only a door opener”, “Yes, she was promoted because they needed more women on the top” or “ She is good but not sure if she is right for the job, she has a family too and this a very demanding job”… and one could just go on.
Unquestionably, having a door opener helps, increasing the number of women at the top helps too but let’s be honest; we all know it takes more than that to succeed. We need to continue helping women aspire, achieve and why not, enjoy these positions at the top.
So, what do we need in order to succeed?
Below a few ideas, based on our experience and career life.
1. Build Self Confidence. There is no need to prove over and over again who we are at the workplace, our skills, or why we are given a certain position. Just us our men colleagues, we need to focus on the individual, on our love on our chosen career, hard work and determination and strengthen our self confidence. As Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen mention in “How Women rise”, women need to claim their achievements, do not expect other to spontaneously notice their performance and overcome the perfectionism trap.
2. Self- Efficacy, Influence and Authenticity. These are key to establish one unique leadership presence. You know what you have and what it takes to be out there and have that job; just be true to yourself, believe in yourself, be prepared and gather the skills and strengths that are required for the job.
3. Pursue Work-life integration. There is definitely not one recipe that will help every woman. The “guilt” of pursuing a “having it all” mentality, is definitely a challenge that each woman has to deal in their own way. The decision of when to have a family, and how to combine it with a successful and demanding career, is both a challenge and a choice. Many women will decide to continue working while raising their children, others, will decide to take a pause in their professional careers. Each decision is personal and brave, and companies need to find a way to support both groups.
4. Articulate your core purpose and values. Focus on gaining clarity about your life and career choices and in finding an authentic style that allows you to positively contribute to your organization. As Brene Brown mentions in her book “Dare to Lead”, leaders today need to be vulnerable and be brave, independent if male if female.
5. Networking is another powerful tool that should be leveraged by women leaders. As explained in “Why Women Rise”, many women build relationships but do not leverage them when necessary. As women, we need to understand that networking is critical and does not need to happen out of office hours.
6. Coaching is a powerful tool and many times, a success factor to help women progress in their careers. It is an effective practice of leadership development, it is focused on learning and development, opportunities for self-reflection and increased self-awareness to enhance one’s strengths.
7. Mentoring is also crucial. It can be formal or informal mentoring. In any case, having one or more mentors has a positive effect and have helped women advance in their careers.
Women at the Top, is not just a result of diversity and inclusion, but also, a result of women overcoming their own challenges. Own it, everything you need is already inside. Be relentless.
Raphaela Berckemeyer & Claudia Vallejo
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