The path to the C-suite exists 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.
Women frequently do not have the same level of support or development opportunities that men enjoy -- because they lack peers and mentors. Here are some tips I share with the female executives I coach, as they climb the corporate ladder.
1. Foster Social Relationships
The golf course is where the real work gets done. Fortunately, that's a barrier many women have broken. 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 should 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.
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 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.
Mike Harden is an executive coach based in the DC area, serving Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland. Contact him today to learn more.