We are finally seeing the entry of women in board-level positions at leading multinational companies. However, the numbers are not stacking up as anticipated – many businesses continue to have a less-than-balanced equation in terms of gender diversity in leadership roles.
Without doubt, it is still an uphill climb for women achievers who have set their sights at the top. After the deconstruction of the women’s liberation mind-set of the late ’70s, there seems to be a lack of both purpose and opportunities. Women realized that Mother Nature never meant to be men, and that their essential femininity is in fact their greatest strength. However, they also discovered that it takes more than strength to break into certain time-enabled silos.
The corporate world – especially in developing countries – still seems to be more geared more towards male domination at the top. Women who deem themselves of suitable caliber to breach these vaults need a clear strategy. Here are some tips for aspiring women achievers:
Chart Out A Clear Course Of Action
Take a dispassionate look at where you are today, and decide on where exactly you hope to land up within a certain time frame. Without a clear goal, all your efforts will be futile. Don’t set your goals without considering your existing or future family responsibilities. The pursuit of your career goals should not entail giving up on other important aspects of life.
Discuss Your Goals With Your Manager Or A Trusted HR Representative
Every company has different nuances wired into its employee growth equation, and you may not be privy to these. It is wise to discuss the way forward with someone who can advise you on your company’s policies and corporate culture. This will clarify your thinking and give you more objectivity.
Evaluate The Challenges
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who else is in line for the promotion you are seeking? What are their abilities and weaknesses?
- Who are their connections and how did they build them?
- How can you leverage someone else’s abilities to manage your limitations?
- What can you do to have your candidature noticed even in the presence of these contenders?
Build A Personal Network Of Influential Men And Women Within The Company System
Construct and grow your network and then leverage your contacts tactfully. While many would view such a course of action as office politics, there is really no substitute for strategic thinking. Arrange to meet these people in formal and informal settings, and offer innovative ideas that will get you noticed. Also establish what their business objectives are, and how you may be helpful in fulfilling them.
Begin To Dress Like A Winner
Women have a much harder time dressing for success than men, and there are fine lines that must not be crossed. If your dress code is rather casual now, you need to gradually adopt a more formal look. The key concept is ‘gradual’, since a sudden change of dress code may proclaim your aspirations and goals too loudly. You do not want to invite antagonism from other aspirants to the higher echelons of company leadership.
Ensure That Your Achievements Are Noticed By The Right People At The RIght Time
This does not mean shouting them from the roof-tops – again, you do not want to antagonize the competition. You can do this more subtle and focused ways:
- Copy your manager on a mail thanking a client for awarding you a contract
- Schedule a meeting with your business head – ask him or her what would be the best way to build on a recent success
- Ask about what achievement awards you may be entitled to, and make sure you send in your candidature
- Keep a track of your achievements in your diary and use it for your mid-year or year-end review.
Do not allow yourself any feelings of entitlement. Nothing succeeds like success – it is your triumphs that will get you to the top, not the fact that you are a woman. Above all, beware of token positions that many companies create merely because of political correctness. These are dead-ends from where there is no upward trajectory at all.