Women getting into the C-Suite
At Fortune 500 companies women account for a mere 6.4% of the CEOs. What are the factors holding women back from the CEO position, and how can they overcome the hurdles?
According to the Leadership Crisis Report, there are many factors hindering women from breaking through the glass ceiling. These factors originate from biases and cultural and systematic barriers, including (in no particular order):
1) Work and home life balance. Women need schedules that are flexible, that would enable them to meet the demands of both their home and work lives.
2) There is not enough support and sponsorship of women advancing (once they have promoted to middle management) to progress them along the leadership path.
3) People are more likely to promote those who act and think like they do, and more men occupy leadership roles. Thus, favoritism hinders women advancing into these roles.
4) As women advance into leadership positions, they find the top to be a lonely place, and there is a lack of role models that they can relate to.
So, what is the solution?
Shelly Zalis, a contributing author at Forbes recommends conducting life stage interviews instead of exit interviews. As we travel through lives journeys, the stages of life bring with it different challenges and needs. For instance, the needs of a person with aging parents are different than a persona with small children. When women in middle management stat having children one of three things typically occurs. One, they rise to the top but have difficulty balancing work with life issues. Two, they leave their careers to raise their families. Or three, they become entrepreneurs and leave to start their own companies.
Make it your own.
The reason they start their own companies is to be able to set their own standards. That is what Zalis did when she encountered these issues. She created an organization with ‘uncorporate rules’. She created an organization that shook off the status quo. A company void of corporate rules. Her company has a “no regret policy.” This policy encourages her staff to never miss out on important events like soccer games. Additionally, it creates collaboration and deep connections amongst her staff. They had to work around each other’s lives and make transitions in personnel interchangeable. This enables her staff to live their lives with a support system within the office.
Ask for it.
Lay out what you need in a business plan. If you need more money, a flexible schedule or more responsibility, ask for it. Laura Mole the Executive Vice President for NBCU Lifestyle and Hispanic Ad Sales at NBCUniversal Media, LLC successfully negotiated a schedule in which she could work from home two days a week. Molen shared that she had a boss who was a traditional thinker, but she was able to get what she needed because she presented it showing how her working from home would benefit the organization. She was the first VP in the organization to be able to work from home
Women share your story and challenges.
When we share our stories and challenges that create empathy within the workplace. Sharing our vulnerabilities is scary but the cost of not sharing is too high. Joanna Barsh the author of Grow Wherever You Work said that her research revealed that moving out of middle management and into the next level is difficult because managers are reluctant to disclose personal information. Women do not discuss the challenges they are facing in their home life. This creates silence and a lack of communication. The result is women hanging on for dear life, or silently leaving their careers.
Listen to those you admire.
Listen to your role models and remember you just might be a role model to someone as well. Practice mentorship. Molan accredits Linda Yaccarino for helping her learn the secrets to success. Yaccarino is the Chairman of Advertising and Client Partnerships at NBCUniversal. Molen shared that Yaccarino had once advised her to just be herself in the boardroom. This helped her improve her presentations. Molen learned to combine the facts and figures with the anecdotes take from her personal day-to-day experiences, this helped her to level up.
Take a risk and raise your hand.
If you want to enter a leadership position you have to take a risk. Deanna Strable the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Principal Financial advises women to seek out new opportunities by talking with their managers. Raise your hand and volunteer to work on projects. Step out of your comfort zone. Open yourself to different people and perspectives.
Align yourself with people who help you grow. To become a leader one must learn, grow and evolve. Catherine Blackmore, the Global Vice President, SaaS Customer Success Oracle noted that women spend time with people who are like themselves, and this is unfortunate. Instead, they should align with people who push them beyond their current capabilities. It may feel uncomfortable, but this is what helps us grow.
Believe in yourself.
There are a variety of external social-cultural factors that make it difficult for women to move into upper management. However, it starts in your mind. You need to believe you can do it. Doubt is a killer. It kills action and promotion. So, stop asking yourself if you can. If a woman wants to rise up into leadership she needs to be confident she can. This piece of advice came from Catherine Perez, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Partnerships and Business Development, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. When you believe it, others will too! It is all about your mindset. Stop questioning yourself, instead start walking towards your goal. If you do the path will materialize beneath your feet.
In middle management, you cannot write your own rules, but if you are able to rise to a senior management position, you will be able to make the rules. You can generously write rules that pay it forward giving to others what you wish you had when you were rising through the ranks.
Zalis, S. (2018, April 28). How To Rise The Ranks: Advice From Female Leaders On Making It To The Top. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2018/04/28/how-to-rise-the-ranks-advice-from-female-leaders-on-making-it-to-the-top/#95763f30b1ce