Now has never been a better time for women to focus on accelerating their careers.
Over the last five years many more women have moved into senior roles and gender-imbalanced professions. Yet much more needs to be done, and there’s plenty of room for great talent. What is the best way for you to accelerate your leadership career?
In early and mid career, women face many tough choices, and there isn’t yet a level playing field. While others work on levelling out that broader arena, don’t lose traction and focus on your own career advancement, and don’t downgrade your ambition.
I’ve created two programs to help you overcome the obstacles that constrain women’s careers and to make sure you use the best leadership tools to rapidly increase your capabilities. I provide you with guidance and support throughout to help you stay focused, challenge your doubts and celebrate your successes.
While we’ve made some good progress, these hurdles still confront us:
‘Think manager, think male’
still prevails. ….. and it’s interfering with your ambition and your career development.
How? The need to display dominance is associated with leadership and traditionally seen as a male attribute. Where women express dominance directly, they are seen as unlikeable, and are less likely to be hired. Women who put themselves forward for promotional opportunities may be seen as ‘pushy’ or ‘aggressive’, while men are seen as ‘go-getters’ and ‘straight shooters’ when they do.
Even where male and female leaders are assessed as having the same leadership capability, men receive higher ratings for performance and potential. Women receive less feedback on their leadership. When they do, they are more likely to adapt their behaviour.
Women tend to attribute setbacks to themselves eg, ‘I knew I wasn’t good enough’. Men attribute setbacks externally, eg ‘this is a tough job’. This is flipped for success, where women tend to attribute success to external factors like luck and men to their own capabilities.
Women must successfully negotiate a minefield of expectations across both female and male characteristics to be seen as effective leaders. The degree of vigilance and attention to their impact on others is high. So, women who are ambitious and want to lead are often caught in the
‘damned if you do, doomed if you don’t’
trap, between the need to be competent and assertive to be respected as organizational leaders, but also warm and nurturing to enact their ‘appropriate’ social role.
And despite the increase in women at the top, there’s still a lack of female role models, which is a real problem, because
‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.
All of these things feed insecurity and fear of failure, and reduce motivation to lead, which is important for being noticed as having leadership potential and helping you attain leadership roles. People high in motivation to lead identify strongly with leading and are intrinsically motivated to lead. Women tend to have a lower motivation to lead, and this shows up early in careers (actually, in girls still at school!).
To reverse all of the above, and set your sights on making it to the top, you need to increase your confidence in your own leadership identity, and one way to do this is by identifying concrete role models. Role models help increase feelings of self-efficacy in leadership, the development of your identity as a leader, and increase your positive feelings about being a leader. Creating a strong, confident story-line that is congruent with your own values, and having a presence that holds attention, are critical to succeeding in leadership roles, and work on these will help you flex your career muscles.
How to accelerate your leadership career:
- Find yourself role models and exemplars of leadership – analyze what they do, how they do it, and why it appeals to you.
- Do some self-analysis (no, you don’t need a couch for that!) and be clear about your sense of identity, your values and your leadership purpose. Why do you want to lead? Be brave. Dream big.
- Having done 1 and 2, write your own narrative about the leader you want to be – script it, edit it, refine it, use it! And repeat.
- Reverse your attributions: when things go well, practice attributing your success to your own capabilities, eg, ‘my ability to remain calm under pressure helped us get through this crisis’. Attribute setbacks externally, eg, ‘this is a tough project’.
- Build a strong support team, your own personal board of advisors. Your board should include guides, advisors, mentors, career advisors, and career guides as well as role models; they’ll help you with the above four steps.
Women in Leadership Accelerator
is an individualized program to suit your needs and your schedule.
Women in Leadership Incubator
is a program for small groups of women to learn collaboratively and flexibly.