The recent CIMA report “Breaking glass: strategies for tomorrow’s leaders” highlighted increased visibility as a key strategy for success for its female members.
Therefore, any woman who wants to advance her career to a more senior level in the finance function, or indeed any other function, should give priority to raising her overall profile.
Mercer’s recent “Women’s Leadership Development Survey” revealed that only five per cent of organisational respondents provide a “robust programme” to develop female leaders.
This means that there are a reduced number of visible female role models to emulate at all levels. So although there is much talk about what governments and organisations can do for women, there is so much more that we can do for ourselves.
Women now make up 60 per cent of European graduates and more than 50 per cent of the workforce. They frequently wait for recognition and hope to be invited, endorsed and promoted. But they are disappointed that despite doing a good job and being patient, full credit and recognition is not always forthcoming.
They therefore have to know what they are good at, be able to clearly articulate it and promote themselves. In modern jargon they have to build their “personal brand”.
Personal branding, according to Dan Schawbel, the “Gen Y personal branding guru”, is “the process by which we unearth what makes us special and communicate this to the right audience”.
This is the time to find your “personal power”. You might want to find a mentor or a coach to support you. And yes, you have incredible skills and talents, but if you don’t know what they are, how do you expect anyone else to know?
Individuals with strong networking skills have been identified as having a high potential for success. Political skill, which is defined as the “ability to understand others at work and to use that knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and organisational agendas” (Political Skill at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness, Ferris & Perriwé) is a key characteristic needed for career advancement.
This is an area in which women should excel, yet they still hold back. Women are just as good at building relationships as men. Women have traditionally tended to tap into their networks to organise babysitters, find the latest restaurant recommendations or run their home, so there is no reason to doubt that they have these skills.
However, the thought of stepping up and engaging to make themselves personally visible, whether that be within their own organisations or in outside networks specifically for their own benefit – for example, being political – fills many with horror, so they look for reasons not to.
But the creativity required to dream up the excuses suggests that their inner capabilities are first class.
Don’t be afraid of “no”
So what prevents many women from stepping out of their comfort zone? My observation is that fear of failure and rejection play a key role.
But what is the worst thing that can happen? That they could receive a negative response, perhaps? Women have to learn not to tie professional rejection into their sense of personal self-worth.
They also have to understand that “no” is merely the beginning of the dialogue, not the end as they so deeply fear. When they really understand what their key skills and achievements are, those success stories will play a powerful role in the negotiation process.
Networking within organisations
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, suggests in her TED talk “Why we have too few women leaders” that women need to “come to the table” rather than simply sitting on the sidelines waiting for recognition. They need to step up and raise their profiles. But how can that be done? There are a few simple steps to follow:
- Participate in meetings. Speak up!
- Find a mentor and a sponsor.
- Network with colleagues outside the normal sphere of activity or geographic location.
- Volunteer for high-profile assignments. Participate in sector or professional networking activities.
- Ask for increased responsibility.
Networking outside an organisation
There is no situation which cannot potentially be professionally useful. We all have friends, families, colleagues and business associates.
There are so many avenues to connect – whether through alumni organisations, hobby and sports groups, conferences, professional associations and so on.
Even random encounters can be beneficial.
But when networking it is important to always set a professional goal and follow up on it, even if it’s only a business card exchange or a commitment to connect on business networking site LinkedIn.
I have one friend who sets out to get ten business cards from every business event she goes to.
For the first time ever reluctant networkers have a great tool to support their physical networking. They can now network online.
Not only do these platforms provide background information on colleagues, bosses and other contacts, which always helps to facilitate conversation and give additional insights, they also serve to raise the individual profile of everyone who participates.
There are actually more women than men using social media. Engaging online is entirely self-scheduling and can be fitted around other responsibilities, making it a perfect instrument for staying connected.
All women should create one or more online, comprehensive, professional profile. And then engage.
LinkedIn now has 100 million members and is highly effective. This sends out a message that you take your career and professional activity seriously. Your profile must include a professional business photo.
Many women are not keen on this for any number of reasons, but I have mainly found it is related to confidence issues and insecurities regarding appearance and concerns about wide internet exposure.
But women should understand the power of appearance
Join CIMA’s women’s network where CIMA members and students can seek advice, network and share tips on advancing their careers: http://community.cimaglobal.com/groups/ content/cima-womens-network
- Connect with Dorothy on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dorothydalton
- Subscribe to her blog – Future Perfect Career Transition Strategies: http://dorothydalton.wordpress.com/
- Follow her on Twitter: @DorothyDalton
Read CIMA’s report “Breaking glass – strategies for tomorrow’s leaders” and honest, insightful case studies from some of CIMA’s most successful female members at www.cimaglobal.com/women
How women can hone their networking skills
So what are the barriers to women achieving a greater profile? There can be many:
Security First of all, it is important to realise that professional platforms are not dating or “adult” friendship sites, or supermodel contests, and although I know one woman who has received any number of marriage proposals, I think that is the exception rather than the rule.
It also depends on the way women conduct themselves and there are, of course, many filtering possibilities for any unwanted, inappropriate behaviour.
Women today have to network with people they may not know personally. This could expose them to that general vulnerability that the internet facilitates, and for those who are really concerned I would suggest starting in an environment in which you feel comfortable.
Create a separate email account specifically for networking if it’s a clogged inbox that is a concern.
Women often say they have no time to network or take on anything extra. Getting out there and participating, whether online or in “real life”, is vital. The reluctance of women to network strategically puts them at a significant disadvantage.
Don’t forget there is no such thing as time management – it’s “you” management and about the allocation of priorities.
Give yourself priority. Strategically select the networks which will be most useful to you and be active.
Waiting for the perfect moment
There can be a tendency with women to get caught up in “getting it right” rather than “getting it done”, even in low-risk situations.
This is a good moment to ask that time-honoured question we have already talked about: “What is the worst thing that could happen?”
The realistic worst-case scenario is usually far removed from the anticipated catastrophe.
Invest in you
Women seem reluctant to invest in personal professional development. We make up the world’s greatest emerging market and although we will spend money on any number of luxuries, we tend to invest less in our careers and professions, which seems incredibly short-sighted.
Who else is going to do that for us? Life coach Brian Tracey suggests that we should spend three per cent of our income on personal development.
Pay it forward
Women of any age and position in their professional life, even entry level, can mentor other women. Be active in connecting and endorsing women who can support each other or have some other mutually beneficial relationship.
Women seem to be distrustful of other women in the workplace and are reluctant to advocate each other.
A woman is 2.5 times more likely to be bullied in the workplace by another woman than a man. So start with yourself and find someone to mentor in your own organisation and profession.
But remember, until women step up in the way that men do we risk being that one pace behind.
- Business ethics 
- Career talk 
- Corporate finance 
- Law and regulation 
- Management accounting 
- Networking and social 
- Professional development 
- Reporting and Governance 
- Risk management 
- Strategic management-economics 
- Studying CIMA 
- Sustainability 
- Technology 
- Studying Exam E1 
- Studying Exam E2 
- Studying Exam E3 
- Studying Exam F1 
- Studying Exam F2 
- Studying Exam F3 
- Studying Exam P1 
- Studying Exam P2 
- Studying Exam P3 
- Studying Exam T4 
- Studying Exam C02 
- Studying Exam C03