I have been an executive coach since 2006, and have worked with hundreds of professional women in both one on one coaching relationships as well as group settings for workshops and presentations. The information that women share with me is invaluable. It helps me to recognize their ongoing challenges and design programs to assist them to realize their ambitions and goals. It gives me the knowledge to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s currently happening for women in the workplace.
For the most part, women enter the workforce with ambition and optimism. We are better educated than our male counterparts yet do not achieve equal compensation or leadership positions. The women I speak with are frustrated with the lack of recognition for their hard work and talent. They understand the importance of “leaning in” but still face gender bias. They also admit to holding themselves back in many ways from realizing their full leadership potential.
Here is what I have learned from listening to women.
- We don’t understand how we contribute to the success of our organizations. We don’t know our value proposition. This lack of understanding about our unique talent and how we achieve results holds us back from leaning in, speaking up, and offering our opinions. It impacts our ability to self-promote authentically. It affects how others perceive us in the workplace, our executive presence, which is essential for leadership. Because we don’t understand how our work positively impacts business outcomes, we hesitate to ask for more compensation; more responsibility and the resources we need to be successful.
- We still don’t know what we want to do when we grow up. The absence of a career goal is a barrier to our success. Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” To move our careers forward, we need to think more strategically. The workplace today requires that we be proactive and intentional in order to navigate the workplace, make decisions, and evaluate opportunities.
- We still believe our hard work and talent will get us ahead. We have distaste for workplace politics, and can’t see how political skill and savvy can benefit our advancement. We ignore the politics and, therefore, we don’t understand the way decisions are made and who in our organization has the power and influence. As a result, we don’t have the information necessary, to better position ourselves for advancement, and we are still surprised when we are passed over for promotions.
- For the most part, we are great at building relationships, yet we don’t network strategically for our professional development. We like to stay in our comfort zone and network with people we like rather than identify who we need to know to move our careers forward. We find it challenging to approach new people. As a consequence, we lack the visibility and credibility we need across the organization.