Winning Strategies for Women Leaders - Access & Assumptions

It’s been a while since I presented at the Business Women's Forum in Hartford, CT. My coaching colleagues,Adrienne Milics, Executive Coach, and Dr. Lyne Desormeaux, SVP of Corporate Counseling Associates, joined me as we spoke to over 200 women about challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace today. We presented case studies. We heard from you, our participants, about your own situations. The next day I flew to China and spoke with women there – but that is another post. I will confine this one to the American workplace.

We all know that women make up a tremendous part of the workforce - some say, more than 50%. But in 2009, we still held just 20% of the senior management positions, often because we are not exposed to job openings (networking). What we didn't talk about during our session is what managers can do to develop and promote talented women.

A few actions managers can take include:

1. Helping female managers develop their networks and hear about job opportunities

2. Sending talented women to both internal and external training programs

3. Providing performance and career development feedback

4. Giving women stretch, challenging assignments with the support needed for success

Let's talk today about #1:

“Both men and women tend to circulate the good news about job openings or opportunities when they hear about them. But looking at the quality of the job leads in terms of pay and prestige … women get poorer quality leads from other women,” said Lisa Torres, a George Washington University sociology professor who studies the hiring and job-search process in corporations. “Men tend to be in the top positions in organizations so, structurally, they’re in a position to hear about job openings or opportunities when they arrive, and circulate those to their networks.”

- Who's in your network? ACCESS

Women may be more effective at networking but both sexes tend to build networks with people of their own gender. Even when women try to overcome this by including men, men's networks may still include very few women, thus access to job openings or opportunities are often missed.

- Do women have more family concerns? ASSUMPTIONS

Many times, women don't hear about the job openings because managers and others assume they have major family responsibilities and they won't want to move or they will be unable to travel more. We all make assumptions but these can keep talented and motivated women out of the loop too often. Times have changed and we want the opportunity to make our own decisions.

What do you do to overcome the Access and Assumption challenges? How do you expand your network? How do you hear about the job openings and opportunities within your organization?

Barbara Healy