For a myriad of reasons, women are largely missing at the C-suite level and in the boardroom. And when it comes to information and data that support this premise, there’s no shortage of it.
And women of color, are virtually non-existent in the space.
Many organizations say they are committed to gender diversity and many are taking action, but according to the 2018 report from McKinsey & Co and LeanIn.org, we are not moving fast enough — almost to the point that the advancement of women in the workplace has stalled.
The challenges are real.
The facts are real.
And if we want to be realistic about it, it’s going to take time to see change.
Because the change we need to see requires institutional re-thinking, policy changes, cultural shifts and enlightened ways of operating within both private and public institutions and sectors.
But there is progress. There are many groups and individuals speaking up and taking action.
We just need more.
So, to keep the progression going, we, individually, need to forge our own paths to success. Here are some of the things I’ve learned throughout my career, that can help you work your way up the career ladder:
Taking Care of Myself First and Foremost was Critical.
Taking care of me didn’t mean being selfish or not caring about other women (or men) or making it only about me or how I should advance in my career.
It meant exactly the opposite.
It meant preparing myself, so that I could help other women advance, helping them go even further, hopefully, faster than me. It meant getting to a position in which I could open a door, or move over to make room for another deserving woman like me.
So, How Did I Prepare?
Mastering unwritten skills to succeed.
As you reach a certain level within your organization, it becomes essential to have an additional set of skills beyond the technical ones.
I figured out early on that my advancement was never based solely on my technical skills. It was more about those unwritten and unspoken skills that the organizations I worked for deemed as necessary. The skills the leaders were required to demonstrate that I needed to as well. They ranged from having an executive presence to being viewed as a visionary thinker or being able to engage individuals and incite change with one’s storytelling abilities. The key is that all of these skills I discovered could be learned and mastered.
To ensure you learn what leadership skills your organization values for advancement. Start by observing others who are successful in your organization to help you identify what skills you need, then make them your own by practicing. When you’re ready, start demonstrating to others that you have them.
Plan for Both Professional and Personal Success.
Your professional and personal life goes hand in hand as one doesn’t work without the other. Your advancement in the workplace is an economic lever to your overall success in life. Whatever your definition of success, advancement allows you to have personal options in life. For me, being financially stable to prepare for my son’s future as a 26-year old single parent was critical to me as I navigated in the workplace.
As you move forward in your career (and you will) to whatever title your company denotes as a leadership role, ensure that all that hard work is manifesting itself personally as well. Whether they are expected or unexpected life events, good or bad, ensure that just as you desire and plan for professional advancement, have your own “personal advancement plan."
We know that advancing in your career doesn’t get easier. For me, it became harder, more challenging. At times, even more political, but in the long run, more rewarding. You will be in places where you are the only one or you will be offered the assignment that few have achieved successfully.
Realize as you climb, you will stand as a role model to other aspiring professional women (maybe even a professional man) that know it is hard, but admires your courage, perseverance and ultimately your success. Know that you are inspiring others which should, in turn, inspire you to continue to push forward for your professional advancement.
Preparing ourselves as much as we can is paramount to every woman’s success.
I am an author, keynote speaker and career expert focused on female leadership and the advancement of women in the workplace. I am also the Founder and CEO of FrancinePaham & Co and creator of Sharpen Your Skills Professional™, a leadership and career development-learning platform for women. Please join me as I launch the inaugural “Sharpen Your Skills: Professional Women’s Advancement Summit Tour throughout the United States beginning in Washington, D.C., June 2019. To hear what I have to say, follow me on Twitter @francineparham. To learn about all that I do to advance professional women in the workplace, join me in LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/francineparham/.