….. I speak to the fairer sex without fear or prejudice.
“The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Global Employment Trends (2003) reported that women still have lower labour market participation rates, significant pay differences and higher unemployment rates compared to men. The ILO estimates that women only represent 40% of the global workforce.”
Not much has changed since then. The list of women who currently hold CEO positions at companies that rank on the 2013 Fortune 1000 lists reveals that women currently hold 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.8 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions.
This may not seem very significant in the workplace that is quite often dominated by the ‘old boys club’ ambience, but for women graduates, it is important to be cognisant of this dynamic and to learn early on how to navigate the workplace to overcome the gender stereotype and in so doing, achieve career success.
I have therefore compiled a list of books I feel are good reads for aspiring women CEOs written from the personal experiences of such women that reveal how to break the glass ceiling.
- How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life
- Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want
- Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better
- The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know
- Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Some of the common threads in this book revolve around the following tips for getting ahead of the pack:
- Choose wisely: Are you doing what you really want to be doing? Or have you chosen a career simply because it’s “more suitable” for a woman? Be sure about the career path you want to follow and the goals you wish to attain. Consider your choices carefully.
- Identify opportunities for promotion: Find out which departments or areas managers are traditionally recruited from. Companies usually have profiles of senior staff on their websites. Use this information to decide which companies to apply or stay with.
- Broaden your skill base: Look for training opportunities, internally and externally, to broaden your skill base. Always stay on top of the latest technologies or processes in your field. This will add some weight to your CV and demonstrate you commitment to personal growth.
- Develop your leadership skills: Acquire recognised, accredited qualifications in leadership and management skills. These can be specific to your field, or general courses such as a Diploma in Management Studies.
- Find a mentor: If your company doesn’t have an official mentorship programme, contact a member of management you identify with, or inform your supervisor that you would appreciate the support of a mentor.
- Network, network, network: Use every opportunity to build up a network of contacts within the organisation. If the traditional cocktail-hour and sport events don’t appeal, try some non-traditional ways of networking, such as on-line groups, book clubs and dinners. Identify external organisations that exist to support women within your profession.
- Maintain your profile: Document every successful assignment, result and process and either ask Human Resources to attach it to your personnel file, or present it during your appraisal or review. Management’s perception of you will influence your promotion opportunities.
- Stay visible: Your achievements and skills will not help your career if they are in the background. Be articulate in meetings and participate in as many working groups as possible, particularly those with decision-making authority. Jump at the opportunity to work with other departments to raise your profile with other managers.
- Take on challenges and responsibilities: Try to take on challenging assignments and extra responsibility where you can, without compromising your work-life balance. This will show your commitment to the company and your determination to further your career.