I recently read about a new study from McKinsey & Company and Lean In.org that delved into the challenges women face in advancing in their careers. Among other things, that study — Women in the Workplace 2019 — showed that the much-maligned “glass ceiling” isn’t always the culprit. It turns out that obstacles much earlier in a woman’s career trajectory — most notably at the first step up to manager — are often to blame. After reading that news, two questions came to mind: First, how can a professional female just starting out in her career — a recent college grad or someone who’s only been on the job for a year or two — make sure she positions herself for a promotion to a managerial role? And second, what are some specific things managers can do to create an environment where people feel included, appreciated and challenged at every rung of the career ladder?
I reached out to Christine Andrukonis, founder and senior partner of Notion Consulting, a New York City-based leadership change firm, who shared the advice she often gives female professionals just starting out in the business world.
“We see women falling off or down the career ladder at five critical moments, including onboarding, performance reviews, promotion decisions, entry into management and life events,” Andrukonis says. “I tell them to have a strong sense of self-awareness — know what your superpower is and what you need to improve in order to be successful.”
Being proactive is important, too.
“Knock it out the park with your current job AND start doing the job you want,” she adds. “Don’t wait for direction or permission to do so. You will wow everyone around you and show that you can do the position you’ve got your eyes set on.”
It also takes more than just doing the job. You have to let people know what you’re doing.
“Advocate for yourself,” Andrukonis says. “Be clear and direct about who you are, what you’ve done and how you can help your organization be successful.”
And what role can managers play in helping women advance early on?
Being an involved boss who understands who your employees really are is the first step.
“When it comes to creating an environment where people feel included, appreciated and challenged, it’s important for individuals to talk to people regularly,” Andrukonis says. “Get to know them, their values and interests, strengths, development needs and aspirations.”
Then do what you can to provide guidance.
“Trust them and challenge them so they can focus, experiment, learn and grow,” Andrukonis says, “and give them constructive feedback, encouragement and coaching along the way.”
It’s also important to be supportive when things might not be going so well.
“Have their backs and catch them when they fall, and advocate for their growth and opportunity,” Andrukonis says.
Finally, she adds these words of caution: “Be sure to check your own biases and assumptions, and stomp them out so they don’t get in your way of seeing people for who they really are and empowering them to be successful.”
(Article written by Kathleen Furore)