Category Archives: Talent Management

This Fundamental Career Mistake Holds Women Back

Women believe that they have to be the best at ‘getting the job done’. They have to prove themselves… prove that they are the most committed and capable.  Your mistake? This is what you almost exclusively focus on. Yet, when leaders make promotion decisions, that’s not the primary deciding factor.  Women go through their careers checking the boxes…. if you go get this experience, if you achieve these outcomes, you’ll be in line for the next role.

But, what typically happens is that the rules change…there are other skills and experiences that you don’t have that you’re told you need…. the bar moves. 

If you’re a woman of color, the bar often is set even higher, and it becomes much harder to compete.

What seems so unfair is that when you look at others around you who are landing those promotions, they are no more qualified or capable than you.

What’s the difference?

What are they doing differently?

What do you need to do differently?

In the interviews for my book, FuelForward, Ralph de Chabert, Chief Diversity Officer for Brown-Forman Corporation shared this perspective: “We continue to struggle with the notion of merit, wanting to believe that’s real. And we want folks to believe that positions are earned through dint of sheer effort, i.e., people grow in an organization because they were rewarded solely for the results achieved through their hard work – I got this position because I earned it.”

My coaching clients often come to me frustrated, having dealt with the confusion of the unfair playing field. They, like you, are looking for solutions. You’re looking for help to understand and navigate the politics that are at work behind the scenes.

How do you begin to change the game for your career starting today?

In my guide, 5 Ways to breathe new life into your career, I lay out some steps to make sure you focus on what’s important in your career.

Women Play Catch-Up Their Entire Careers

In my coaching practice, I run across a number of female professionals who are frustrated with their career progression. They feel like they’ve been committed to the company, working endless hours and doing what it takes to get the job done and then some.  A big part of the problem is, they feel like they’re trying to push through this journey on their own.

In fact, it’s not just a feeling. Studies on the progress of professional women show this to be true for so many. A recent study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company on Women in the Workplace* was conducted among 34,000 employees, and 132 companies which employ more than 4.6 million people. This study concluded that:  “Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions.”

Leadership Pipeline Narrows for Women

The study found that, and I quote, “Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager—so far fewer end up on the path to leadership—and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions. Women also get less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers. As a result, the higher you look in companies, the fewer women you see.”*

The data is evident. The stories are sobering.

* LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company 2016 Women in the Workplace Report

Women Often Are Playing Catch-Up Their Entire Careers

Stephanie was promoted to a senior professional level position, and was on her way up the ladder to an executive level position.  She was the only female at that level in this department.  Her boss realized that her salary was well below that of her male peers, even though the career paths had been similar and responsibilities in this role were the same. She was oblivious to the situation. Luckily, she had a boss who was not satisfied with the disparity. He advocated for her salary to be brought to an equitable level, ensuring she was compensated fairly for her work.

Stephanie is one of the lucky ones. Many women are playing catch up across their entire careers.

Women Are Missing Critical Relationships

Professional women are missing critical relationships, such as mentors, coaches, advocates and sponsors, to enable success in their careers.  There’s a lack of awareness among professionals that they need these important relationships, so they fail to seek them out. Companies also don’t realize or appreciate the importance of these relationships and don’t provide a supporting environment for these relationships to occur.

Companies Feel the Impact

Why does this matter?

The impact to companies falls right to the bottom line from a number of challenges that result:

  • Attrition – professionals don’t feel supported and, especially if they’re diverse, don’t see themselves with future opportunities, as they see few leaders or others moving up that look like them. Millennials have lower levels of patience when career opportunities are not apparent and are likely to move on, leaving gaps in your potential pipeline.
  • Business results are lackluster because of ill-prepared leaders.
  • Lack of inclusion because the primarily visible talent are the ones that look like the leaders already at the top. Humans’ natural tendency is to gravitate to people with similarities.
  • The impact for professionals results in frustration from lack of opportunities, causing them to more actively look outside. They fail to reach their full potential or feel that the talents and commitment to the company are truly valued. Lack of advancement means loss of income potential over their lifetime, which has significant personal implications.

Navigating the Corporate Environment

Career success and talent development takes a team approach beyond the traditional manager/employee relationships. The corporate environment is complex, with formal and informal processes and networks, and plenty of office politics. You need people in your network to help you navigate this environment.

Download my free guide 5 Ways To Breathe New Life Into Your Career to avoid the mistakes women make in navigating the corporate environment.