How more women can get into leadership
Leadership has been a preserve of men all over the world. Closer home, women continue to be conspicuously absent in leadership positions both in the corporate world and in the political arena. A lot has gone into helping women to get into leadership including affirmative action and the emergence of many organizations that mentor young women, led by women in leadership positions.
However, women still lag behind men and a lot needs to be done to get more women into leadership. Currently, women in political leadership are only 15%. The government enacted a law that required state-owned corporations to include women on their boards, but this has not helped much.
According to a study carried out by the African Development Bank Group, women form the bulk of employees in lower level positions but their numbers dwindle considerably in middle and top management levels. This is a worrying trend that continues to make women undervalued and underemployed.
There are many arguments about helping women get into leadership. One major argument is that women now receive similar opportunities to those of men and it is now time to get to the top on merit. But, some issues still curtail this growth.
Barriers for women
Prevailing business and political culture
According to the African Development Bank, most top management positions are made using old-boy connections that are made in family, friendship, school and business circles. Seeing as most top positions are held by men, this makes it hard for women to take advantage of old-boy connections to get to the top. This culture limits the number of women who can get into leadership as there are too few at the top who can pull others up.
In political circles, some social norms make it difficult for women to rise to the top as there are cultures that are against women holding leadership positions.
Weak government regulations
Although efforts, through legislation, have been made to ensure that women get a shot at the top jobs, the regulations are not strictly implemented. Organizations and government agencies are left to implement the regulations at will.
Additionally, corporate secrecy and ambiguity make it hard to determine how many women are in top management positions since non-listed companies are not under any obligation to provide all their information for public scrutiny. This has rendered the regulations null and void as they do not promote the inclusion of women.
Women are judged more harshly than men
According to a study carried out by PewResearchCentre, the expectations on women are often higher than those of men. This means that men can often get away with a lot more than women and it limits the ability to get to the top and pulls more women down. This trend is more pronounced in political leadership where women are expected to be of higher moral standards than men.
How to rise to the top
Despite all these obstacles, getting women into leadership is still a reality and progress has been made in both the corporate and political sectors. So, how can more women get to the top?
Work hard and seek growth always
Leadership is earned, especially in the corporate world. While legislations have been made to help push more women to the top, your work is what will make you stand out. One way of ensuring that you become visible even to the old boy networks is to seek to learn and grow always. This way, even your male colleagues will be praising your work and this helps you get noticed.
Always look for growth opportunities and be involved in new projects. Additionally, seek to help others grow and your efforts will soon be noticed. Many women like to shrink themselves and shy aways from challenges and this makes them be bypassed when there are new projects and it affects their growth.
Get a sponsor
Yes, a career sponsor, not the other one. Think about how to get into the old boys’ circle. As we have established, a strong barrier to women in leadership is the old boys’ circle, which has few women. So, develop strong working relationships with guys at the top so that they can help you create networks, get into the circle and open doors.
You may have great skills and talent but as long as no one at the top knows you, you will almost always be the last instead of the first person whose name pops up when an opportunity arises. Having a sponsor essentially means someone who guides you, helps you grow and most importantly, pushes you through the door. Top leadership is often political and this means that you must cultivate the right networks with strong political muscles to help you move up. So, work hard and build strong networks and getting to the top will be a strong possibility.
Do not limit yourself
Social relationships are usually formed based on familiarity. This means that people, even at work, tend to only associate with people they work closely with. Since the top is male dominated, women will be excluded from networking sessions and opportunities. Your male colleague is likely to tag along a male workmate whom he works closely with, to a business meeting as opposed to you.
While this may be tricky, it is advisable not to lock yourself from opportunities that can help you grow by erecting unnecessary barriers. Create time to attend business meetings which help you build networks. This process can be made simpler by getting a strategic sponsor. Be intentional in your networking.
Commit to helping others, especially women, to get to the top
While there are still few women at the top, some progress has been made. Women at the top can overcome the old boy networks by helping more women to get to the top. This will create enough political capital to help more women get into leadership.
As a woman in leadership, look out for those hardworking and talented women working with you and help them grow by getting them to be involved in more projects and ensuring that their contribution is noticed. Become her sponsor and the open door for her.
Do not expect favours
The corporate and political worlds are highly competitive. They compromise of people with raw ambition and most people are usually looking out for their own interests. While selfishness is frowned upon, the truth is that it is a reality.
While trying to get to the top, do not expect people to be nice to you and simply push you forward. Do not ride on the hope of regulation to help you rise. It is advisable to work hard and proactively take charge of your own career growth. Seek out growth opportunities and actively participate in projects that help you grow. Do not be shy to point out your own achievements and contribution to projects. Many women fall short of leadership because they expect to receive favours from those at the top or their colleagues.
While there have been gains made, there is still need to get more women into leadership. However, women must also take charge of their own growth and deliberately look for ways to get to the top. It is possible to have more women in leadership but a step has to be deliberately taken by women and those in leadership, to make this happen.