How do women progress in business?

How do women progress in business?

This month, The Influence Business’ Jayshree Davé, gives top advice to women looking to move up the echelons of the corporate ladder. Jayshree has spent over 20 years working within HSBC Corporate Investment Banking in New York and London and has been responsible for setting up and managing highly successful departments.

Jayshree is a passionate advocate of women in the boardroom.

‘If women truly want to progress in the corporate environment, it is totally achievable. I navigated a successful career in the extremely homogenous environment of the trading floor of an investment bank in the early 90’s. I always considered my job to be my career; my gender or anything else, was never on my radar. I was totally focussed on achieving my goals with passion, drive and determination, so my language, behaviours and action reflected this. I was always looking to learn in different roles and through networking I sought out my own mentors.

Having observed successful women in business first hand for many years, I have noticed that the best display three key skills and characteristics:

  1. Outstanding leadership and managerial skills
  2. Ability to proactively plan and manage their career
  3. Inherent characteristics comprising of:
    • Total focus on goals
    • Strong drive and determination
    • Confidence to take risks
    • Effective communication skills

No one is going to make this happen for you. You have to take control of your career and where you want it to go.  The most important thing is being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses.  If you don’t feel you have one of the qualities listed above, find a way to acquire it.

  1. Join women’s business networks
  2. Actively search for strong professional mentors
  3. Attend training with coaches

Doing these three things will go a long way to improving self belief.  Achieving this is half the battle!

Whilst it is clear a lot of workplace barriers still exist for women, you just have to look at the number represented at senior levels to see they are still apparent.  However, the future for women in business looks bright, particularly as Generation Y assumes senior positions. Significant changes are occurring in the workplace to reflect their work and societal attitudes (although not as fast as we would like).

At a system level, it is an incredibly exciting time. Within organisations, measures are well underway towards creating, enabling and facilitating progressive pathways for anyone who has the skills, ability and qualities required to be an executive.  HR initiatives are being hard wired into corporate-dom via diversity inclusion policies and employee engagement surveys. Accountability is now vital and managed through balance scorecards and performance reviews. Talent Pools and Career Managements are also continuing to recruit, identify and develop high potential individuals.

Finally, I have a couple of controversial thoughts to put to women.  Here are two possibly unconscious inhibitors that some women may be placing on their own career progression:

  1. Women leave before they leave.   Cheryl Sandberg, CFO of Facebook recently spoke on this topic at a TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) talk.  Summarising, many women who want to have a successful career and are planning a family at some point in the future, may not volunteer themselves for certain projects or promotion.
  2. Men expect, Women hope.
    It is not enough to keep your head down, work hard, achieve goals and hope that you will be rewarded.  A 2010 International Women’s Day Accenture survey revealed women are less likely than men to ask for promotions (28% versus 39%).

Women need to put themselves forward for more senior positions, they must start to ‘expect rather than hope’.  I believe that if you have passion, determination, confidence and ability, you can achieve anything you want to do. Gender doesn’t have to come into it.’