Women excel academically. We are currently earning almost 60% of college degrees, about 50% of doctorates, and roughly 45% of MBA’s. We are more prepared than ever to assume leadership roles in business. Yet just 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. So why hasn’t women’s academic success translated to more leadership positions in the workplace?

The answer lies in the fact that different skills are necessary to succeed in school versus the workplace, and this is vitally important for women to recognize if they have any ambition to advance to leadership roles.

In school, success is based on industriousness. You work diligently and you are rewarded with good grades. In the workplace, however, the rules of the game are not so simple. Although hard work and good performance are important, often promotions are based on the ability to work the politics and promote oneself with intention. Women shy away from this type of self promotion, and as a consequence remain invisible and often passed over for promotions.

A recent article in The Atlantic commented on this:

“Just as important, the behaviors that school rewards—studying, careful preparation, patient climbing from one level to the next—seem to give women an advantage academically, judging from the fact that they get higher grades in college than men do. Yet these behaviors aren’t necessarily so helpful in the workplace. Out in the work world, people hire and promote based on personality as much as on formal qualifications, and very often networking can trump grinding away.”

Also, it is important to note that gender bias still exists in the work place. Often women are left on their own to battle the discrimination that is often subtle and hidden.

The Atlantic article further states:

“Women begin to fall behind the moment they leave school. Even controlling for their college major and professional field, they wind up being paid 7 percent less than men, on average, one year after graduating, according to a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women. One reason is that they take fewer risks right out of the gate: they are much less likely to negotiate their first salary—57 percent of men do this, versus 7 percent of women. Compared with their male peers, women also set less ambitious goals. A McKinsey study published last April found that 36 percent of male employees at major companies hope to be top executives, compared with just 18 percent of female employees.”

Once again it comes down to making an intentional choice to embrace your ambition and set a strategic plan for your career. Understanding what it takes to be successful is the first step!

Learning how to effectively promote yourself and navigate the workplace politics is vital for your success.

How serious are you about moving your career forward? Once you can say to yourself with commitment that you have higher career aspirations, put a strategic plan to get to reach your goals. Understand what it takes and learn the necessary skills to make it happen.

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