There is growing body of literature and research for women who want to advance their careers but unlike some of the early stuff this is not of the ‘strut your stuff, pad your shoulders and play the men at their own game‘ variety. Thank goodness – I never looked good with padding!
Research into Women & the Glass Ceiling
We’re moving on and the research reflects this. There is an understanding that men and women are different and bring different skills and qualities to the workplace, of equal value. Even the term ‘glass ceiling‘ is being replaced by ‘glass labyrinth‘ as it’s acknowledged that women can get to the top, but by a more circuitous route than their male counterparts. A path still strewn with obstacles.
Janna Walvoort of the London School of Economics has undertaken an extensive literature review with a follow up survey, looking at the main barriers women face in their organisations, and at the 8 coping strategies thought to be commonly used to overcome these barriers for women’s career advancement. The strategies are:
family and career balance
understanding corporate culture
systematic investment in career and development
knowledge of own strengths
Four strategies stood out as being of particular significance in helping the women in Walvoort’s survey progress with their careers: networking, role models, confidence and knowledge of strengths. In a series of four articles I’ll look at each of these in turn from a coaching women perspective and suggest options or exercises for you to follow.
As someone who regularly works with senior women these are familiar concepts to me and my clients; I’ve written on my women’s blog about these issues many times (you might like to check out How to Manage Workplace Stress – 3 Tips for Women, What Every Woman Needs to Know About Confidence, and 3 things Women Must Do to have Career Success. And I have a whole section dedicated to Inspirational Women to act as female role models and give inspiration to other women.)
Networking is one of the areas I find women feel least comfortable to engage in; by which I mean focussed networking that can actively assist in their career development. There are several reasons for this, not least that women may be working part time and part time workers tend to work really hard at the actual tasks of their job in their working hours and give up anything they see as peripheral, like career development. Men, rarely part time workers, are quite good at networking and their networks have been established for years.
If you are serious about advancing your career then networking is something you need to pay serious attention to. It’s not merely window dressing but can also enhance how you do your job as it increases your exposure to colleagues in the field and the knowledge they hold, as well as raising your profile.
A Networking Exercise for Women
Try answering the following questions:
- What does the term networking conjure up for you?
- Is it something you feel comfortable with? Are you sub consciously resistant to the idea?
- What kind of networks are you involved with already? List all of them, whether work related or personal, don’t compartmentalise. Your yoga class may be an excellent source when you stop to think about it.
- Are you on a social media network like LinkedIn?
- Do you keep it regularly updated and understand how it can help you? If not, check this out-masses of free helpful information on how to use LinkedIn professionally and you can sign up to get 100 free tips – LinkedIn Training. (I’m not on commission, it’s simply a very helpful source of information that I offer to you as a resource!)
- Do you plan in time for networking? Is it part of your career strategy or, in common with many women, are you focussing your time on getting more qualifications and work experience? That’s not a bad thing, of course not, but you need more than that.
- Do you know the best areas for you to focus your networking?Are you looking for advancement in your current organisation, in which case look upwards. Or are you looking to move to a new firm, in which case look outwards.
- Who do you currently know that could help you?
- Who do you know that already has links in this area, who could make some introductions? This is where LinkedIn can be invaluable in helping you make connections with people you wouldn’t come across in the normal course of events. Twittercan serve a similar function although is not such a professional medium and restricted to 140 characters.
Make time for networking in your career plan. Remember, it’s no good being good at your job if no ones about you! As Harvey Coleman discovered, in relation to gaining advancement in one’s career, 10% is the actual quality of work you actually do, 30% is your image, and 60% is if people know about you. Are you paying enough attention to that 60%?
Speak Up! Empowering Course for Professional Women
If you’re interested in advancing your career, whether you’re aiming for a seat on the board, or to make your way upwards in a largely male dominated world, you may well be interested in my brand new course, Speak up!
Speak Up is Women’s Leadership Training with a difference. It doesn’t teach women how to be like men; instead it works directly with women on how to be strong and powerful communicators who get their point across without being dogmatic, aggressive or disparaged. Learn how to make men listen to you, respect your views, and become an influential figure in your organisation. Advance your career! Invest in your personal and professional development.
Photo Credit: McHaron
Posted on July 21st, 2011 by Jane