The World Economic Forum 2015 said that it will take until 2133 to achieve gender parity. Anyone reading this post who thinks that is fine, should stop reading now. [Tweet “We will all be long dead anyway”]. The question remains whether those supporting gender balance are willing to wait another 117 years for gender parity. Or should they commit to being proactive, get busy, doing what they can, while they can? Or hang around and wait for someone to do it for us?
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa
Wait 117 years for gender parity? Or get busy?
Many women frequently claim that they want to be authentic, as in true to themselves. But for every woman there will be a different truth. Herminia Ibarra suggests that authenticity can hold us back from making the changes that being in leadership roles requires.
“career advances require all of us to move way beyond our comfort zones. At the same time, however, they trigger a strong countervailing impulse to protect our identities: When we are unsure of ourselves or our ability to perform well or measure up in a new setting, we often retreat to familiar behaviors and styles.”
So here a 5 things women can do now!
1. Create your own luck: a.k.a. a strategy
Research by 3Plus in the MBA community, suggests that both men and women believe that not having a career strategy is one of the biggest barriers to career success for women. Read: Lack of career planning hurts professional women
So time to start getting serious about having a career! Read: Career Coaching for Professional Women – career strategy A business leader noted “even senior women don’t envision where they want to be, and have career goals. They become excellent and dependable functional specialists or mid-level employees, but end up getting left behind.”
Many highly capable women leave things to chance and don’t share their ambitions with their boss or even their partners. Research shows that women consistently score higher than men on every element of the behaviours associated with leadership success, except for vision. It’s for this reason that it’s so important audit your career, to write down your career goals and make a plan to achieve them.
2. Beat Gender Blow Back
[Tweet “Respected leadership qualities and behaviour still have a male aura and message.”] It’s expected and accepted when men exhibit them. If women are direct, assertive, have strong ideas and sell themselves, they are penalised. Men on the other hand can be rewarded for the display of non-stereotypical view and behaviours. “Too cute” and “so authentic” we coo, as very little changes.
Organisations desperately need unconscious bias training for all senior management, as well anyone in a position to impact hiring and promotion decisions. In the meantime women have to navigate the double standards with a strong executive presence, creating an impactful personal message, combined with empathy and humour, in addition to being good at their jobs. This is easier said than done. If you see unconscious bias – call it out and definitely don’t participate in it.
If you feel weak in these areas look for coaching and training.
3. Grow a strategic network
Developing a strategic network is critical for career success. These contacts should be within and external, to your organisation. Choose carefully which network events you attend and make sure you actually network and don’t just hang out with your friends. Leverage your online presence to enhance your broader reputation. Sign up for: How to Make the Most of LinkedIn in 10 minutes a day
4. Enlist star support
[Tweet “The lack of female role models makes it hard for women to find mentors and sponsors.”] If there are no women in your organisation ask your boss and colleagues for suggestions and introductions. Check out the 3Plus Mentor Gallery
5. Own your own achievements
Research indicates that women who understand and are able to shine a light on their own achievements, are happier with their careers and enjoy higher compensation, than women who don’t. Read: The Woman’s Guide to Sharing Career Achievements. Being able to highlight your success stories succinctly, without bragging and relating them to business success, is a real skill. Make sure you have it in your tool box.
6. Audit your company
Establish if your company is really committed to investing in female talent. Benchmark their values and mission statement on gender balance. Do they run gender bias training? Is your company using male coded language in job descriptions and adverts? How many women are at senior levels? What is their position on a presence culture? And of course a key indicator: do the men take parenting leave without penalty?
If your company doesn’t commit to these KPIs for gender balance – find a company which does.