Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Whether you are the first female Vice President of the United States, or the VP of a small business, it takes hard work to be an effective and empowered woman leader — especially when much of that workforce is dominated by men. 

According to Deloitte, only 27 percent of C-suite jobs in the U.S. are held by women. 

Here, we identify five savvy strategies women leaders — and aspiring leaders — can use to help them bust through the glass ceiling.

Boost your confidence

The average U.S. worker spends nearly 1,800 hours per year working — more than workers in most other countries. In a deadline-driven work culture like that of the U.S., urgent needs, competing projects and short fuses can erode workers' self-confidence. Take time to clear your head, re-center yourself and recognize your worth. By acknowledging your unique skills and what you bring to the table, you will be better able to hone your abilities in a leadership role.

Another way to boost confidence? Sharpen your public speaking skills. Not only can public speaking improve confidence, but it can bolster your presence in the workplace — a true win-win.

Learn to say no

Regardless of rank, one of the biggest issues facing women workers today is that they are more likely to help colleagues but less likely to benefit from it. Seemingly small asks, like taking notes in a meeting, mentoring junior staff or helping to plan the office holiday party can become major time sucks, leading to extra-long work hours and burnout. As noted in the Harvard Business Review, women workers are, in fact, experiencing higher levels of burnout than men, often due to gender inequity and bias.

To avoid burnout by mid-career level — a time when most women are finally positioned to make the jump to leadership — learn to say no. Suggest other colleagues take turns participating in different tasks, and remain firm when you have other obligations or more pressing needs.

Avoid ambivalence

Along with burnout, many women on the precipice of leadership roles experience mixed emotions about the next step in their career. One study also suggested that feelings of ambivalence may be further compounded by competing personal needs, such as family and child care, and lack of perceived opportunities for career advancement and women's empowerment.

As you move forward into a leadership position, ask yourself: What do you want? Some find creating a vision board helpful, as it can serve as a daily reminder of your goals and inspire you to visualize a bolder, brighter future for yourself.

Recognize implicit bias

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes and stereotypes that can unconsciously affect our behavior. There are many different types of implicit bias, including gender bias. In the U.S., as Brigid Schulte details in her book, "Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time," this typically translates to "men = career, women = home."

It's important to question your assumptions and challenge the stereotypes that may pop up in your brain (e.g., "the ideal worker puts in a 12-hour day," "the ideal mother bakes cupcakes for every school fundraiser," etc.). Schulte also recommends embracing friends and colleagues of all genders "who do good work, are loving caregivers, and make time to refresh their souls" as role models.

Network strategically

Studies have shown that women often build their professional networks for friendship, while men form strategic alliances. The problem? In the interest of preserving their friendships, many women avoid reaching out to their networks for help, even when trying to move forward in their careers. Instead, deliberately build professional relationships that will help transition you into the leadership role you want and deserve. Remember that a goal of networking is exchange—of information, ideas and opportunities—and to pay such exchanges forward to other women when you do reach the C-suite.

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