How can women at work and women in senior leadership roles maintain career momentum?
A study was conducted by Harvard Business School’s senior women leaders and women coaches. In spite of the systematic, structural issues that women, and particularly women of colour, encounter in the workplace, the writers, and executive coaches for women leaders, wanted to know why certain women are able to sustain and maintain career momentum. A focused drive, a never-ending thirst for knowledge, and an agile attitude were found to be the three qualities that helped these women at work maintain momentum during interviews with 37 women in senior leadership roles.
Jackie is one such individual, she started out in science, working on medication research. She came to the realisation that she wanted to work on the business strategy side after a few years. Yet she was declined each time she applied for the shift. She recalled, “I kept hearing, ‘You’re just a chemist. The same thing took place when she applied for positions outside of the company that would further her marketing or business expertise. Nobody could see beyond her current level of expertise. She felt trapped. Feeling like she had lost her momentum in her work was a challenge for Jackie.
Among 37 senior female leaders with backgrounds spanning more than 75 different corporations, 75% of the women we spoke to were white, and 25% were black leaders. We asked these executives to talk about the turning points in their careers that kept them moving forward. The fundamental characteristics that enabled individuals to persist when they felt stuck were better understood by carefully examining these situations.
1. A Committed Drive
Call it persistence, tenacity, or unwavering resolve. These ladies described how, in the midst of adversity, they found their inner strength and used it to put their immediate problems in the context of their bigger objectives. Lydia, for instance, never wavered in her desire to lead an investment firm. She viewed every professional opportunity as a means of gaining momentum towards her objective.
2. Perpetual Thirst to Learn
These ladies demonstrated more than just a willingness to study; they also had the drive to look for chances to learn new things and face obstacles. For instance, Mary started out as an attorney and is now the president and CEO of a major corporation. She volunteered to oversee regulatory issues and later transitioned to director of finance.
Mara served as the CEO of a sizable hospital district with 560 acres dedicated to medical research. She claimed to have no knowledge of real estate. She had no idea how to change a company. She was however skilled at managing teams of professionals towards a common objective in the field of health care.
3. Agile Thinking
The study’s interviewees showed flexible thinking skills, such as the capacity to appraise a situation and choose a course of action without delay. They changed the direction of the projects they were working on or reinvented themselves when it came to their own professions.
When she was 30, Jen” was a vice president, and opportunities continued coming her way until she became such a superb chief administrative officer (CAO) that no one could imagine her as a chief financial officer (CFO). She was rejected twice for the position in two different organisations. She then relocated again, worked with the product team to determine the features that should be prioritised, sold to additional CAOs, and handled the company’s operations throughout Europe. Her promotion to CFO and president of a multinational firm was assured by these significant results.
Setting a New Career Pace
Set your sights on your career ambitions. Make sure your choice is based on your long-term professional objectives if you’re presented with the chance to take on a function that falls beyond the scope of your current area of expertise or if you’re encouraged to make a lateral shift in order to learn more about the company or pick up new talents.
Your own brand should be crystal clear. 83 percent of the women who were interviewed indicated that in order to restore their momentum, having a clear purpose and managing their brand was essential. You need to be aware of your reputation and the benefits of contacting you if you want to change things. Conduct a little brand research on your own identity.
And finally, be deliberate about deciding what you need to learn and how you will learn it, whether it be a new product, an automation tool, market knowledge, or information about your competitors. Even if you don’t know anything right now, you’re a learner and will pick it up quickly, and you want everyone to know that.