It may be hard to see, but it exists. Women still face significant barriers to upward mobility, largely because of hidden biases and unspoken assumptions. In spite of growing diversity in the work force, women continue to be underrepresented in management positions.
My advice to women: Being a “good guy” won’t help you as much as it will help a guy. Performance must be the driver of your career:
- Become an expert in something; know your stuff.
- Always follow through on your commitments.
- Surround yourself with outstanding performers.
- Take calculated risks.
- Trust your instincts.
- Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.
- Work hard.
All along the way, but especially once you are in a position of leadership, make it a priority to support other women in their careers. Know who your ten to 15 high-performing female employees are, rotate them, support their development and growth, and provide the necessary career counseling. Keep them on your radar screen and ensure that they are exposed and considered for critical opportunities within your organization. Because leaders tend to choose protégés who are similar to them—in terms of gender, interests and background—females in male-dominated industries are at a particular disadvantage. Those of us who have achieved senior positions need to help create a level playing field for the next generation of women. We should make it a point to support each other.
Most importantly, never be self-conscious about being a female executive. We all have unique backgrounds. No two paths to the executive suite are the same. Each of us brings something special to our positions and being a woman is a component of that. Always operate on the strengths and abilities that you have to offer and you will go far.