The path to the C-suite is there for both men and women. It’s just that for women the path can often feel like a mess of potholes, detours, poor signage, downed trees and tolls.
Dr. Linda Brodsky, founder of Women MD Resources, says that workplace bias manifests in a variety of ways: “It’s how many resources [women are] given to how much staff support they get, to the support they get in the boardroom for expressing their ideas.”*
Women frequently do not have the same level of support or development opportunities that men enjoy – because they lack peers and mentors. So what tips do I share with the female executives I coach as they climb the corporate ladder? Here are some:
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1. Foster Social Relationships
The golf course is where the real work gets done. As Leslie Andrews writes in Forbes: “The business benefits of golf — primarily the ability to develop relationships and to be where decisions are made — are so powerful that by allowing themselves to be excluded, women are doing themselves a disservice.”
Fortunately, today, that’s a barrier that many women have broken. More and more women are playing golf — for enjoyment, but also knowing that if they don’t, they miss out on important business.
Informal connections and conversations are critical in advancement, and golf’s social nature is one way to facilitate these interactions and foster these relationships. Beyond golf, female executives need to get out there and participate in any social activities related to their industry so they can reap the benefits of these informal business events too.
2. Be Assertive and Powerful In Interactions
Being self-confident, assured, and, when necessary, forceful in their interactions doesn’t mean becoming masculine. However, the definition of “feminine” power in the workplace is still a moving target.
Halley Bock, CEO of Fierce, a leadership and development training company, says, “A woman who shows emotion in the workplace is often cast as too fragile or unstable to lead. A woman who shows no emotion and keeps it hyper-professional is icy and unfeminine. For many women, it can be a no-win situation.”
With coaching, struggling female executives can learn to find the win and be assertive without feeling masculine. But it can take practice to develop or demonstrate these skills.
3. Own Your Work-Life Balance
No one can determine someone else’s work-life balance, yet judgment on this topic is an obstacle that women continue to face. They are expected to be the ones who care for their families, and quite often, they are. But they may also be the breadwinner in a home with a stay-at-home Dad, employ a child-care worker, rely on a friend or parent, or not have children at all. The possibilities today for women are endless. The bottom line is that women – and men – have to decide on the work-life balance that works for their individual situations and own it unapologetically.
4. Seek Out Places Where Women Are Valued
Many business-related groups are dominated by men, and peer-to-peer groups like Vistage are no different. Many such groups, however, are actively working to recruit more female members. This diversity of thought is critical to every organization. Seeking out opportunities like this can help women advance in their careers, but it also helps men discover, explore, and appreciate divergent thinking.
Equal footing in the workplace is an important goal because women bring so much to the table: skills, competencies, ideas, expertise, and not the least important, the experiences they’ve had rising through the ranks, which differs so significantly from men. Having that voice at the table is critical to the success of organizations.