Workplace Culture

How Do We Carve Out Career Paths for Women in Leadership?

By Staff Report

Nov. 13, 2015

Dear No Glass Ceiling Here:

Internal career paths help create clarity for employees about how to get from here to there — and creating career paths for women leaders is not necessarily any different than creating career paths for men leaders. But there are certain behaviors that can make it more difficult for women to get on the right path and certain practices that exist within many organizations often create barriers for women. Below are tips for what women can do to take charge of their careers and for what organizations can do to remove the barriers for women.

Tips for Women:

1. Be clear about what you want and declare it. Know what you're passionate about, understand your capabilities, and be able to articulate the value you bring. Be clear about your aspirations. If you don't know where you're headed, you may end up someplace else. Ensure others know to what you aspire. If you are the only one in the organization who knows where you want to go, it is impossible for the organization to help you. If you aspire to be the next general manager, don't be afraid to articulate that goal early in your career.

2. Raise your hand. Being ready for that big role is, in part, the result of an accumulation of the right experiences. Volunteer for the high-visibility project. Negotiate the conditions for your success and take that turn-around assignment. Sitting back and hoping others will recognize your potential is not a winning strategy.

3.Cultivate sponsors and a strong network. Let others help you. The higher you rise in the organization, the tighter the competition becomes for key experiences. Everyone needs others who can advocate on their behalf.

For Organizations:

1. Provide differentiated development opportunities for women. Women benefit from a safe environment, especially early in their career, where they are supported to identify and declare their aspirations. Skill development in areas like networking, personal branding and negotiation provide women the tools they need to succeed.

2. Uncover organizational blind spots. Be transparent about the skills, abilities and experiences required for key roles. Seek to uncover hidden biases that may prevent a woman from acquiring what she needs. For example, does your organization hesitate in assigning international assignments to women with small children. Are manufacturing assignments typically given to men? Is high-performance equated with face-time rather than results?

3. Make it easy to hit the pause button. Make it easy for women (and men for that matter) to temporarily step-back or step-off a career path as life circumstances dictate without it derailing a career. Ensure organizational practices support career path flexibility.

SOURCE: Debbie Rocco, senior consultant, Interaction Associates, Boston, Sept. 16, 2015.

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