Advancing into leadership roles requires more than just skill. It demands an owner mindset and an entire identity shift. For women, this process can be fraught with barriers – but barriers are meant for breaking.
We wanted to provide some valuable advice and actionable strategies for women looking to overcome barriers and advance into leadership roles.
Women in business
Despite this, the global workplace is not optimised for women’s success. Women face discrimination on a daily basis, from unequal compensation to fewer promotions to ongoing maternal bias.
For women to overcome these barriers and step into leadership roles, and for companies to start realising the power of women on boards, there needs to be a shift in mindsets.
7 advancement strategies for women in leadership
As Tony Robbins says, success in leadership is only 20% skills – the rest is about having a leadership mentality. But developing this mindset is particularly challenging for women, who must operate in a culture that is uncomfortable with how women exercise authority.
For women to establish credibility, build confidence and advance their careers, they need leadership strategies that they can work on consistently. With that said, here are our top seven advancement strategies for women in business:
1. Internalise a leadership identity
The first step to advancing into a leadership role is to see yourself as a leader already. Over time, this mentality will foster confidence, develop a sense of purpose and make people perceive you as authoritative.
Internalising a leadership identity is an iterative process. Start making purposeful actions every day, like revisiting sidelined projects, hosting meetings or tackling challenging assignments. This will allow you to demonstrate your leadership skills not only to others, but also to yourself so that you have greater confidence in your capabilities.
Don’t hesitate to step outside of your comfort zone and exercise leadership behaviours. For example, if you tend to be a passive participant in meetings, start speaking up and offering your opinions. This is the first step towards reshaping your identity as a leader.
2. Become skilled at self-promotion
According to studies, men rate their performance 33% higher than women. This isn’t indicative that men perform better than women – the study also reveals that the women actually perform just as well.
In reality, it shows that women are less likely to promote or celebrate themselves than men. This is caused by a number of factors, the core of which is a lack of confidence instilled by years of unequal workplace opportunities and behaviours. In fact, this Harvard Business Review reveals that women who self-promote are more likely to be penalised for boasting.
The bottom line is that people who don’t shy away from promoting themselves receive more opportunities, so become unapologetic with your self-promotion efforts. Highlight your accomplishments, show off your skills, leverage LinkedIn to share your projects or successes and make new contacts.
3. Network, network, network
Building a strong, professional network is the best way to earn a leadership position or advance the one you currently hold. Effective networking establishes you as an authority figure in your industry and expands the opportunities available to you.
The best way to network is to use LinkedIn to grow your network by sharing, commenting on or writing articles, participating in industry forums and messaging fellow industry leaders. You never know where a new connection may lead, so get your name out there.
4. Embrace the power of negotiating
The power of negotiating is often overlooked. It can help you get promoted to new leadership roles, be perceived as more confident and even secure a pay rise. Despite this, 20% of women in the global workforce never try to negotiate a better deal or salary, something employers not only take advantage of, but possibly count on.
Knowing what you want – and being assertive when chasing it – is the first step in mastering negotiation skills. You can also negotiate more effectively if you’ve taken the time to think through acceptable alternatives and hone your persuasive speaking skills.
Approaching a negotiation with openness and a willingness to compromise will also increase your chances of success. At the same time, remember to always know your worth and your numbers. If you’re negotiating a pay rise, for example, enter the meeting armed with research on typical salaries for people at your level within your industry.
5. Increase your confidence
Due to biases in the workplace, confident women are more likely to be seen as unlikable. This breeds lower confidence in women employees, making them less likely to apply for or be promoted to leadership positions.
One way to increase your confidence, especially when entering a meeting or running a project, is to be mindful of how you’re speaking. Speaking quickly and rushing through information makes you seem nervous and unsure of yourself.
Instead, take a deep breath, lower your voice, and speak slower. Take your time, choose your words carefully and don’t be afraid to pause. This commands attention, makes you seem more authoritative, and puts the power of the conversation in your hands.
Another way to increase your confidence is to celebrate your successes. Self-validation is more powerful than external validation. It teaches you to trust and respect yourself, and this mindset will carry over into every aspect of your work.
6. Always be on the lookout for upskill opportunities
Stay ahead of the curve by continually upskilling yourself. This is crucial for women in leadership because it ensures you’re always up-to-date with the latest industry trends and developments, allowing you to be a more impactful leader in your field.
Upskilling is more than just enrolling in new training opportunities or taking the odd course here and there. It’s a lifelong commitment to learning and growth. It’s also another way to build relationships, demonstrate your value and expertise and stay ahead of the competition.
7. Develop an executive presence
When it comes to choosing good leaders, confidence is often mistaken for competence, which is one reason why men outnumber women in leadership roles.
Instead of giving these positions to those who are most skilled, they’re usually given to those with the most style and charisma. This highlights the importance of women developing an executive presence.
Having an executive presence is all about displaying behaviours and personality traits that command authority. There are a few ways you can cultivate this:
- Show a clear sense of purpose
- Have a passion for your work
- Play an active part in meetings
- Be personable and focussed during interactions
- Have confident and calm speaking skills
Even something as simple as good body language can convey confidence, make people perceive you as more trustworthy, and strengthen your verbal communication. Think about your posture, how you sit, if you’re maintaining eye contact and even how you’re breathing.
Empowering women in business
The burden to succeed doesn’t just lay on the shoulders of women. For them to feel confident enough to pursue leadership roles, companies must prioritise gender equality in the workplace, make a dedicated effort to remove the obstacles women face, and support women leadership within the business.