I first wrote and published this article in 2015 a year after the launch of my book “Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women”. 5 years later I revisited that article and here is an updated version. Since 2015 I have been privileged to contribute to the training and development journey of over 10000 women leaders. This article lists the 6 career disablers for women, and the 6 enablers. I hope you will use this to assess your own situation and reapply some of these observations to enhance your own career success.
THE TOP 6 CAREER DISABLERS FOR WOMEN:
1. Putting everything else before self: Family, partner, in-laws; women are quite selfless when it comes to investing in others versus themselves. Every need of the family is a priority, and most women’s needs come last; there, but unrecognized and unrealized. When a woman earns she reinvests over 80% into her family/community. When a man does, that investment is under 40%. Investing in self development (for a woman) is often the lowest priority.
2. Juggling far more priorities versus men: It comes down to simple maths. Men are focused on fewer, and are able to put in more focused hours at work. In many cultures, women have to balance the kids, work, playing a supporting role to a more ambitious partners career. Ultimately this leaves fewer hours for work. Less work equals less career progress. Currently, during COVID-19 challenges around the world it becomes increasingly clear that women are holding up MORE than half of the sky!
3. Believing ‘networking’ to be superficial and lacking in authenticity: Women crave authenticity and dislike the superficial.When was the last time a female friend stopped off at your work desk and asked you to get coffee with her and while having coffee talked a couple of business items, resolved them and “got the work done?” Use these informal catch ups to build collaboration, support for mutual agendas.
4. Underestimating their potential: Ask a room full of executives (male and female) as to who is ready for the next level, likely 100% of the men in the room will raise their hands. Not women. Women are more introspective and often underestimate their potential. Mentors to women leaders often see (and advocate) for women on the basis of potential they spot in the person that the woman herself does not see in herself.
5. It is only in the last decade that women have access to senior female mentors: The number of women in leadership positions is far less than that of men. Only 2.8% of the world’s Fortune Global 500 companies (2019 listing) are run by women CEOs. This is improving, but slowly. This means that there are fewer women leaders available as mentors to younger women.
6. Being with a partner who always prioritizes his career over hers. For many women the challenge is that her man expects her career to take a backseat to his. The result is predictable for the woman – career stagnation or all too often – destruction.
THE TOP 6 ENABLERS FOR WOMEN:
1. Making a difference: Every single woman I have spoken to in the last several years, somewhere in the conversation emphasized the importance to her of “making a difference” via her career. Irrespective of country, culture or economic status, this concept reverberated in every conversation.
2. Thinking big: Women are BIG thinkers. In my research for my book Break the ceiling touch the sky, I was amazed to discover that women have consistently re defined innovation. COBOL, the first computer language, Kevlar, the windscreen wiper, structure of penicillin, all female innovations at work. Guess who has demonstrated the best leadership during these challenging COVID-19 times? Women! From New Zealand to Germany its women taking the lead.
3. Giving and taking support: Women have an ease of doing this that comes naturally. They see this as authentic and credible. The most inspirational and successful women are expert at asking for support and giving it, building incredibly strong support systems that enable them to manage the many priorities they must balance enroute to the top. Both at work and at home. This should not come as a surprise – women simply have many more obstacles and biases to smash enroute to the top.
4. Leveraging a leadership compass. A set of values as operating ‘compass’ are evident in the success of women. ‘Driven to succeed as a professional and driven to make a difference in the community’ is how one amazing female leader described the benefit of having values that serve as guide during the most challenging of times.
5. Delivering results: Women at the top know that to be credible, they must deliver results. “Once you secure that credibility, it becomes easier to get great assignments, approach potential mentors and ultimately aspire to bigger successes,” one such inspirational woman shared with me. No coincidence that research is now showing the business impact of gender diversity and more women in leadership. Companies with 30% women executives bring in as much as 6 percentage points more in profit.
6. Focusing on the positive and never give up: On the resilience scale, women are incredible. One of my favorites interviews ever for the book Break the ceiling touch the sky was with Valerie Khan, Chairperson of the Acid Survivors Foundation of Pakistan. She shared, “There will always be challenge in a career. What is important is that you focus on the positive and never stop believing you can do it.” Valerie lives in one of the more dangerous cities in the world, works daily with acid attack survivors, street children victims of child sexual abuse, yet her positivity rarely wavers.
About Anthony: Anthony is the founder Chairman and CEO of House of Rose Professional Pte. Ltd, a business consultancy that provides products and services in the Talent, Training and Transformation areas of business. Anthony is also the best selling author of “Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women”, “How to get, grow and succeed in your Dream Job”, “Daddy’s Logic: Live a life of no limits, no excuses and no regrets”. Prior to setting up HORP in 2014 Anthony led Corporate Affairs and Influencer Marketing in a wide range of roles across the world at Walmart, Procter & Gamble, GSK. Anthony is also credited with creating the “12 Winning Principles of Marketing PR” (2000) and the white paper “The future of Influencer Marketing (2006) which became the basis of P&G’s global Influencer Marketing expertise. In April 2020, Anthony launched Mission 2029 – a global initiative to quintuple the number of Female CEOs in the Fortune Global 500 by 2029.