If you have had the privilege of meeting with senior managers at mortgage and finance companies, you will notice they are overwhelmingly filled with middle-aged, white men. According to Catalyst, women currently hold only 5.8 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. This tells us that despite all of the progress, women simply have not shattered the glass ceiling.
The fact remains, when it comes to hiring for executive-level positions, the pool of experienced and qualified candidates with relevant experience is predominantly male. This is not to say that women are not just as capable, but if 95 percent of the qualified applicant pool is male, the chances of hiring a female for that role are strikingly low, thus creating a perpetual cycle of hiring men.
To move more women into higher roles, companies need to foster an environment of promoting from within and effectively “break” this continuous cycle. Companies sometimes fail to see the proven talent right before them in their eagerness to bring in someone from the outside with a prior comparable title. Board members usually receive outside candidates with similar experience well because they seem like the right fit on paper. The reality is that after the initial announcement to the company and circulation in industry periodicals, no one ever remembers these prior titles and companies measure performance by innovation rather than a candidate’s prior job history.
The responsibility to foster an environment that promotes from within falls on each of our shoulders. We need to encourage growth from within our own companies, encourage hiring managers and those in decision-making positions to look within the company and allow capable, promising employees the chance to advance from within. To drive this growth, we need to prepare the next generation of executive women to challenge experienced male candidates.
To be a capable candidate for an executive role requires having a clear vision of your goals and career path. Planning will help you to avoid many costly detours along the way and improve your chances of arriving at your final destination.
Career goals are different from performance goals at work and they are certainly not a New Year’s Resolution, which is good, because hardly anyone achieves those! Unlike performance goals—which are usually SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound)—career goals should be HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult). Goals need to be difficult enough to propel one forward, making traction toward the final destination.
It is important to remember that you will never achieve a goal you don’t set, yet the majority of the population does not have written goals. The mere act of writing down goals will set you apart from peers. However, setting the goal is just part of the battle.
According to statistics from Workboard, 93 percent of the workforce cannot translate their goals into actions, and only 7 percent of people know what they need to do to execute a goal. Similar statistics from Inc. indicate only 8 percent of the population can achieve a goal they set annually—this does not even speak to goals that span the course of decades.
How can women best position themselves to reach their career goals? In addition to their HARD career goals, they must select the right mentor. Sharing goals with a mentor can help maintain focus and develop the roadmap needed to execute your vision. The right mentor is vital to developing the skills needed to translate goals into action and continue career growth, particularly for women who are at a disadvantage.
In identifying a mentor, it is arguable that women are far more successful when mentored by other women. Women are known for their ability to relate to an audience. It is important to have a mentor who can help you grow to find your own voice and present ideas in a way that is confident, persuasive and natural. Women mentored by other women can better find a delivery method that is their own because they share common strengths and understandings. Bottom line: women need to find their own voice and they will not find it if trying to sound like a man.
My advice to women is not to let life pass by. Take control and propel forward into that dream job with confidence and the necessary skills. When doing so, do not forget that you would not be as strong without a community of supportive women, each of which have a duty help mentor the next generation.
AVP Client Relations
Quality Claims Management Corp.