Empowering women in the workplace: Top tips for aspiring female leaders
In my last post, I explored how digital transformation is giving business leaders the opportunity to reimagine gender equality. But how do aspiring female leaders put this into practice to progress and forge successful careers? Here, I offer my top tips:
- Take inspiration from the top
According to a new study from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org, both male and female employees recognize that face time with leaders and informal feedback are important factors to getting ahead. Some enterprises, such as Amex, have rolled out executive shadow programs to give high-potential individuals more access to top leadership within the company. If your organization provides such a scheme, seek as much feedback as possible, and work with your mentor to nurture a stronger, wiser and more mature version of yourself.
- Gain your voice and visibility
Meetings often present opportunities for greater interaction and visibility, so push yourself forward and let your voice be heard. SAP recently introduced an initiative designed to instill confidence in high-performing women. Tasked with making on-camera presentations and expanding their networks, participants on the course are encouraged to speak up, increase their appetite for taking risks and be more visible in the company as a result.
But what if your organization doesn’t run these types of initiatives?
There are plenty of other ways to navigate your way through male-dominated business environments, which I’ve listed below.
- Consider a ‘sticky floor’ rather than a ‘glass ceiling’:
You may at some point in your career feel like you’ve hit a glass ceiling, with company processes holding you back. But change needs to come from within. A ‘sticky floor’ is based on our own feelings and assumptions that we can’t get ahead, so alter your behaviours to be the best version of yourself in the working environment. Adopt a ‘speak-up culture’, embrace ‘good enough’, not perfection, and don’t be afraid to fail. Grow a thick skin – as you progress, there will be plenty of people who will scrutinize your ideas and strategies.
- Invest in yourself and be curious:
Take every opportunity to continuously learn and be curious about everything – read as much as you can. Have a strong sense of self to determine what your motivators are and what you want to get out of your career.
- Embrace change:
In the digital era, technologies are evolving on a daily basis, but understanding that change is constant will enable you to grow as a leader and help your business stay ahead of the competition at the same time. Form strong opinions about emerging technologies and trends to establish yourself as a thought leader. The insights you offer to senior execs will help them make more balanced and informed decisions.
- Get proactive and network – both in and outside of your organization:
According to a new study, nearly a third of FTSE 100 companies admitted to largely relying on their own personal networks of current and recent board members to identify new candidates and many non-exec roles aren’t openly advertised. While there are strong calls to make board recruitment fairer, more open and transparent, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and network at company events where you can make connections with the board. This will help you put yourself in front of the right people, increasing your chances of hearing about more senior roles.
- Maintain a healthy work/life balance:
Your performance will always be improved when your life is more balanced. Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, advises aspiring females leaders to take the time to unplug, recharge batteries and reenergize. Doing this will ensure your working habits aren’t compromising your abilities to progress.
By taking these types of approaches, you can equip yourself with the rights tools, skills and behaviours to confidently progress at your own pace. Ultimately, your career will be shaped by the decisions you make, connections you forge and experiences you gain, and getting these right early on can make a huge difference.
Diana Asnani, one of our Cloud Service Managers based in Poland, has been shortlisted in the 2017 Woman in IT Awards, the world’s largest event for identifying new female role models. We wish her luck at the awards ceremony in January!