Breaking the glass ceiling: 3 career strategies for women

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Breaking the glass ceiling: 3 career strategies for women

“Women have reached a certain point – I call it the glass ceiling.” ~Nora Frenkiel

Nora Frenkiel first coined the term “glass ceiling” in 1984, and today, more than 30 years later, progress has been made, but the climb has been a slow one.

In 1995, there were no women serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and only 10 percent served as board members. Now, women make up 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, and women’s boardroom participation sits at around 17 percent. Right now, more than half of all managerial and professional occupations in the U.S. are held by women. Furthermore, the vast majority of the public (80 percent) agree that both genders are equally capable of leading in the business world. In fact, it has been found that firms with more women in the c-suite are more profitable than those with fewer.

Gains are being made and efforts to recruit and develop women, ensure fair practices and eliminate biases are being placed at the forefront of public discussion. As a result of this increased attention, the world’s top researchers and leaders have contributed to the conversation in meaningful ways. Below are three findings their research and experiences have revealed.

  1. Understand the “confidence gap.”

A meticulous study by Washington State University psychologist, Joyce Ehrlinger, and Cornell psychologist, David Dunning, found that men overestimate their abilities and performance while women underestimate both. In reality, the quality of their performances do not differ. This “confidence gap” is alarming given the growing body of evidence that shows just how devastating lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with actual competence.

Virginia M. Rometty, President and CEO of IBM and the first woman to head the company, recounted the following experience from early in her career. She was offered a top position, but felt she did not have enough experience. She told the recruiter she needed time to think about it and would give him an answer the next day.

That night, her husband asked her, “‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?”

“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know,” she said, “And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

  1. Don’t negotiate like a man – negotiate like a woman.

Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask, has found male business school students initiate salary negotiations four times as often as female students do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do.

Researchers have examined why this is and have found that women may be avoiding negotiations because they perceive that there is a “social cost” to be paid for engaging in these types of interactions. Rightfully so. Women are in fact penalized more than men for initiating negotiations. So how does a woman successfully advocate for herself given the associated risks?

Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard’s Kennedy School asserts that women can negotiate successfully through using a “relational account” or “I-We” strategy. “The key to a relational account (or “I-We”) strategy is to explain why your counterpart should perceive your negotiating as legitimate in terms that also communicate your concern for organizational relationships,” she explains.

After receiving her first job offer from Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg recounts the following: “I went back to Mark and said I couldn’t accept, but I prefaced it by telling him, ‘Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal team so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.” Sandberg negotiated effectively by connecting what is good for her with what is good for the company.

  1. Get comfortable with rejection.

While women begin their careers with ambitions that are just as high, if not slightly higher than their male peers, most eventually scale back their goals and become less likely to pursue promotions, job transfers, and high-profile assignments. Many assume this is because women are more risk averse or have career preferences that differ from their male colleagues. Raina Brands and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo of the London Business School conducted a study that points to another, subtler reason.

The study of more than 10,000 senior executives in the U.K. found that women were much less likely to apply for a job if they had been rejected for a similar job in the past. Men were also less likely to apply if they had been rejected, but the effect was much stronger for women — more than 1.5 times as strong. Lyda Bigelow, associate professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the David Eccles School of Business, incorporated the study in a recent article about unicorn startups, female entrepreneurs and the importance of persistence for women.

The takeaway for employers and policy makers is that while encouraging more women to throw their hat into the ring is worthwhile, it is even more valuable to ensure that recruiting and promotion processes are indeed fair, objective and transparent. As for women themselves? See rejection as an environment for progress and courage, rather than a reflection of personal value. Never been rejected? Aim higher.

Anna Wintour was originally rejected by the very industry she now runs. After just nine months as junior fashion editor, Wintour was fired from Harper’s Bazaar for being too “edgy.” At a fashion industry conference in New York, Wintour told the audience, “I worked for American Harper’s Bazaar … They fired me. I recommend that you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.”

How the Eccles School is helping shatter the glass ceiling

The Eccles School is committed to increasing the number of women in leadership in the business world. With that goal in mind, the Eccles School launched its Women’s MBA Association earlier this month. The association supports the education, career advancement and collaboration of women through specialized programs, admissions events, mentorship and more. Here are two opportunities to engage with the association this month:

  • Women’s Leadership Program: This program is for ambitious female leaders seeking further education in targeted business subjects. Upcoming two-day session topics include negotiation, digital marketing leadership essentials and more. Learn more here.

  •  Women’s Information Luncheon: Those interested in earning an MBA are invited to attend a special luncheon on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Trolley Square. Learn more about the Eccles School’s four MBA offerings and hear from female students/alumni about career progression, ROI balance and more. Register here.

2017-12-20T13:06:18-07:00February 16th, 2017|

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