Marianne O’Connor, an associate of The Influence Business, has been working with senior women in business, raising their level of influence, throughout her career. She has coached many of the leading figures in some of the world’s largest organisations, including the BBC, Channel 4, UK Sport, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, the MOD, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and the NHS. Marianne is ideally placed to witness women’s experiences in the work place. Below are Marianne’s thoughts, taken from an article published in The Times last month.
In the run-up to International Women’s Day, there were a string of articles in national newspapers looking at the issue of women in the boardroom.
Despite the Government’s “women on boards” campaign, which aims to have women make up 25 per cent of board-level positions by 2015, progress to the upper echelons of the career ladder in whichever profession a woman chooses, is slow. There is talk of a possible EU quota, but that prospect is too far in the future to be of any help to women today. Without external help, what can women do to make headway with their careers in 2012?
Confident communication skills and personal impact will positively influence how you are perceived by others. By identifying your unique talents and strengths you will be well placed to raise your profile to become more visible and memorable. Women tend to under communicate their achievements and performance results. It is important to get comfortable communicating what you have achieved.
How well you communicate is crucial. Prepare set-piece replies to common work questions such as: “So, what are you up to at the moment?” Instead of playing-down your work load: “Oh, you know. The usual.” say: “I’ve just finished project A which resulted in B, so my current focus is achieving C.”
Women’s rapport and relationship building skills are a significant advantage in career development. The ability to read interactions and flex communication styles accordingly is a key influencing skill. Women should take advantage of these innate skills to build strong professional networks both inside the organisation they work for and externally.
It’s a fact that women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfilment. Women need to set both short and long-term goals early in their careers, setting clear and specific objectives. By doing so, you will have more control over your career progression.
Ambitions also need to be articulated and communicated to others, such as partners, colleagues and bosses, in order to achieve a planned career progression.
While flexible work arrangements enable women to continue working after maternity leave, it is much more difficult to get back on the promotion track when they return to work after time off to raise a family. This is due to a number of issues not the least of which is confidence and self belief.
Be proactive, be willing to ask and negotiate for what you want. Learn from those who have gone before you – focus on developing relationships with senior executives who are well positioned and can encourage you to achieve your goals. Define what success means to you and go for it.’