When you look out onto the horizon of your career, what do you see?
Do you see a great leadership career filled with opportunities that are yours for the taking? Do you see projects that will test your abilities and develop your skills as you grow into the great leader you know you were meant to be?
I hope this is the path you see ahead of you, because for many women, it is not. Instead, what they see is a path filled with obstacles that seem insurmountable and that appear to be completely outside of their control. It’s as if some invisible force is holding them back and no matter what they do, there is always something or someone standing in their way.
Sometimes the reason is that they’ve chosen the wrong company. Making the wrong choice when it comes to your employer can be the worst decision of your leadership career.
In a new book titled The Ruby Report: How Companies Can Profit By Promoting Women Leaders, some suggestions are made regarding the elements women should look for when choosing the best company in which to pursue their leadership dreams. How does your current company measure up?
Choose a company with a family/female friendly culture
Work for an organization that values children and families and doesn’t demand an unrealistic sacrifice to get ahead. An overly masculine culture leads to Enron-like behaviours and results; steer clear. Look for evidence that they see a healthy balanced individual as an asset to the organization. Find out if they have policies in place that facilitate parents’ success, and then determine if people in fact use them. Does the CEO’s desk sport a photograph with children?
Find supportive bosses and inclusive cultures
Your immediate supervisor will have a major impact on your career so it’s important to know the values of that person. Every department and every team has it’s own culture, which is created and sustained by its leaders. Are women and other minorities represented? Do team activities reflect awareness, respect and inclusion of everyone?
Seek formal mentors and sponsors at senior levels
Does your company have a method whereby you can access senior leadership levels to find a mentor? Is there a formal program? Who are the people mentored by the most senior levels? Do the most senior leaders even have mentees?
Visible monitoring by the CEO and senior leaders of diversity programs and measures
What’s the public message delivered by the CEO and the executive team regarding diversity and inclusiveness? Are there measures in place to track success against quotas or goals? If there is a women’s affinity group, how involved are senior leaders?
Choose companies that have women in senior leadership roles
How many women sit in the seats at the top? How many on the Board of Directors are women? How many women are in line positions versus staff positions? What’s the gender distribution of the highest paid officers in your company? Are there women in positions of power and influence?
Be able to articulate the value you add to the corporation
Understand how the company makes money or maximizes its resources. (Read What the CEO Wants You To Know by Ram Charan) Know how your department and team contribute to the most important organizational goals and know how your individual skillset contributes to the overall success of the company. Look for a company that listens to and respects the opinions of women and other minority groups.
Be willing to express readiness for tough challenges
Look for opportunities to grow and develop in mindset, skillset and experience. Be vocal about wanting to be considered for tough assignments and be clear to others about your leadership aspirations. Don’t wait to have the conversation about why you weren’t selected before you realize which gender-based assumptions have been falsely applied to you.
If your company lines up with these 7 keys, then you’re probably in a great place to pursue your leadership goals. If you’re interested in learning more about the key initiatives that will help drive promotions for women, get a copy of the book. If you’d like to help your company create a culture that has more women at the top, get an extra copy and give it to your CEO.