Women, Take Control of Your Career
September 10, 2013
Ruth Malloy, Harvard Business Review
We all know The Statistic: Only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. But the gender split in midlevel management is now nearly even.
While women have made progress in being recognised as managers, why aren't they making it to the top? In many cases, they've climbed to the last rung of a ladder that simply doesn't go all the way up, like a business function (HR, perhaps) that isn't generally tapped for the CEO position. In others, they lack the critical experiences or skills required to take the next step, such as an international assignment or high-risk project. While many complex factors contribute to women hitting the glass ceiling, more proactive career management and clearer manager guidance would help them identify and use the right tools to break through.
Our study found that women are less deliberate than men in their career progressions, thinking, 'I will learn, grow, and build my capabilities,' rather than, 'I will create opportunities to learn X and gain experience in Y to get to position Z.' The former mindset can drive advancement to a point, but we found that without specific career plans, women often weren't the ones behind the wheel: Many high-performing women who participated in our study felt that their careers 'happened' to them, driven by recognition from sponsors who gave them opportunities.
Which is fine, unless you want to be the CEO, and the sponsor-identified opportunities don't give you the skills or perspective required to get there.
Those who want to move all the way up must create opportunities to understand how the organisation works, how it makes money, and who its key people are. And they need to do so early in their careers. Sometimes a lateral move to gain experience across business lines is a better choice than a promotion within a department, and it can help women avoid being promoted up a functional silo by managers seeking to use their talents to advance their own agendas.
Because women won't be handed the experience they need, they must speak up. Many women in our study felt uncomfortable with the self-promotion of 'asking for a job'. Our research also indicates that women tend to hesitate when offered promotions because they didn't expect them, felt unprepared, or needed time to address work-life considerations.
This is where women's tendencies to forego informal networking can hinder them: that inkling you're about to be promoted might be more apparent in a social setting than it is in the office. So stay in touch at work.
And stay in touch at home. While you're thinking about what your future job could be and learning new skills and roles to take it on, keep conversations open at home about how your life outside work could change if those career opportunities came to pass, and what would have to adapt. Having a forward-thinking home plan can help you say ˜yes' without hesitation.
Women managers, of course, have a symbolic role to play once they reach the top, though many tend to shy away from it and hide family and 'feminine' aspects of work-life balance. Please don't. Be a mentor. Show those coming up behind you how you prioritise, share your rationales for your personal and professional boundaries, and be as intentional in these realms as you are in your career decisions.
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Source: (c) 2013 Qatar Tribune.