5 Key Tips from Women to Women to Overcome Career Challenges

Gender diversity pays dividends:

Women are a great asset to the workplace and their presence and advancement drive economic growth and improve businesses’ financial and organizational results. For example, a study by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, covering almost 22,000 firms in 91 countries, has shown that the higher the number of Female Directors in the C-suite, the higher the Net Profit performance (1). Beyond corporations, a McKinsey Global Institute report finds that $12 trillion, or an incremental 11%, could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality (2).

A significant gender gap continues to exist:

Despite those upsides, we are still far from having equal representation of men and women in different fields and at higher levels of hierarchy and this gap is highly unlikely to close in the foreseeable future.

Only 11% of heads of states are female (3). Within Corporations, women run just 7.4% of the Fortune 500 businesses (4). In Artificial Intelligence (AI), a critical area that is forging the future of society and the workplace, women are also under-represented at 22% (5).

Over the past month, I have interviewed 50 women executives and senior managers to understand their perception of what is standing in their way and how to overcome. Here are key outcomes.

Women face a competitive disadvantage in their careers vs. men

In the big scheme of things, as women we are still new in the workplace and have less proven paths to tap into and fewer established and inspirational role models to follow.

We also need to compete in a work culture that is different than our own, while continuing to retain a disproportionate part of household and parental responsibilities.

These high-level challenges get compounded with other obstacles that undermine women’s professional development & progress that fall into 2 types:

  • External challenges that are imposed by outside factors or conditions, such as lack of true commitment to gender parity, holding women to higher standard than their male counterparts, or viewing them as women ahead of being professionals, even at highest levels in hierarchy.

  • Internal challenges that are within and more directly under our control, such as lower self-confidence and visibility, and holding ourselves to impossibly high standards.

The 5 key tips to overcome challenges
  • Know and pursue what you love, have a clear career vision, and build the path of how to get there. Within that look to engineer your balance by creating conscious trade-offs and creating boudaries – you can’t be everything to everyone! This will enable you to intentionally go after what is most important to you and forgo guilt.

  • Take control of your mindset, overcome imposter syndrome, believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, starting with yourself. If you are in doubt, just go ahead and try. Worse-case scenario it might not work, but you would learn and grow in the process. A very senior executive said “even today, when I see my title below my email, I am surprised and feel like a little girl that tricked the world. When I get quoted in newspapers I am stunned. I do not let that stop me though and can laugh it away or change my thoughts”.

  • Continuously sharpen your skills, learn, and grow. Identify your gaps, be curious, and build plans to address them. Within that ensure you speak up, be visible, share your progress and wins, and assert your needs and position as needed. Also, dare to say what you want and formulate your aspirations. No one else will do that for you!

  • Get and give back support, you are not alone! Tap into relevant networks to be visible and connect to knowledge and opportunities. Seek mentors, sponsors, role models, and coaches to help you grow. Also, support other women to help in creating collective impact. Together we are stronger!

  • Be authentic. You don’t need to be like men. Be proud to be a woman and look and behave like one, while flexing intentionally when needed. Stay true to your values and never stop being yourself!

Bring it all together

Despite the numerous challenges faced in the workplace, women are a huge asset and are making a big difference in the workplace! Imagine the upside potential as we learn to navigate those barriers more seamlessly, and in time, transform them. There are proven tips and approaches to help get to that. Being supported and guided by other women who have the experience can be a crucial enabler, on the path to pursuing your vision, achieving your potential, and thriving in your career and life.

So what is your experience with navigating career challenges? What tips worked for you best and what others might you add? Please share your insights in the comments section.

Roula Clerc-Nassar

To learn more about how Ellumine can help you overcome the barriers and frustrations associated with career challenges and support you to thrive and realize your potential, you can get in touch at info@ellumine.ch.

Sources :

  1. Marcus Noland, Tyler Moran, and Barbara Kotschwar. 2016. « Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey », 9. Available: https://www.piie.com/publications/wp/wp16-3.pdf

  2. Jonathan Woetzel, Anu Madgavkar, Kweilin Ellingrud, Eric Labaye, Sandrine Devillard, Eric Kutcher, James Manyika, Richard Dobbs, and Mekala Krishnan. 2015. “How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth ». https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth

  3. Andy Gregory. 2020. « How many female world leaders are there? ». https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/female-world-leaders-jacinda-ardern-new-zealand-election-belarus-b1077339.html

  4. Emma Hinchliffe. “The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits an all-time record”. https://fortune.com/2020/05/18/women-ceos-fortune-500-2020/

  5. World Economic Forum. 2018. The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 : p. 28

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