Recently, a group of C-suite women business leaders in Boulder came together for the final Executive Women in Business luncheon of 2016. During the luncheon, there was discussion about progress that women made in the workplace last year and challenges that women have yet to overcome to level the playing field in corporate America.
As we enter2017, let’s take a closer look at how we can commit to creating more opportunities and breaking down barriers to professional and personal growth for women. The dialogue among local female leaders surfaced some resolutions that can advance the role of women and support their career paths at every stage of their life.
Step up the mentorship game. Mentorship is a key driver of success, yet women report that they still have a hard time finding mentors that can help influence their growth path in a company or help guide skills and professional development. Women who are mentored by other women report that they feel more supported and are more satisfied with their career. Resolve to make time each month to connect with young women in your field to share advice and support growth into senior roles.
Build a legacy for the next generation. When the group of Boulder leaders was asked how they made a difference in their industry for the future generation of female leaders, most had trouble answering the question or responded that they did not believe they have made a difference at all. Whether it be leading a mentorship program, being a vocal advocate of gender equality or implementing a new position-sharing program at your company for working moms, identify what your passion is and make this year the year you make your mark.
Close the confidence gap. A recent social psychological study of 985,000 men and women across 48 countries that asked participants to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem,” found that across the board, regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women. Young women and girls often take cues from other women about how to act and speak. As female leaders, the more we can model confident behaviors in how we speak, make decisions and carry ourselves, the more we will empower young women to close the confidence gap.
Support family growth and career growth. At the luncheon discussion, many women expressed the professional challenges that came with taking time off for personal goals, such as having a baby or getting an advanced degree. More than two-thirds of companies today offer flexible programs to help balance work and life. However, less than 25 percent of employees take advantage of these programs. Management support of these programs is critical to the success of employees who opt to exercise these benefits. Encouraging women to take advantage of programs such as job-sharing, flexible hours and remote working can help women advance into senior positions at a pace comparable to men.
Redefine balance. No longer are work and home life clearly separated, as technology makes us connected 24/7 and many positions require attention during off hours. Additionally, many women report that they met their best friends at work. Working women can redefine balance and seamlessly integrate both their work and personal schedules. Encourage young women to seek out a career that allows them embrace this new convergence of work and home life.
As we close 2016 and enter a new year, we should feel proud of the accomplishments women are making in the workplace, in public office and at home. Research states that companies with women in the senior-most positions are more profitable, yet female CEOs still make up only 14 percent of S&P 500 CEOs. As we look to 2017, let’s come together to help one another achieve even more professional and personal goals. Together, we can resolve to overcome the hurdles that remain before us to pave the way for greater opportunities for women to grow in their careers.
Gretchen Wahl serves as senior vice president and commercial banking manager for First National Denver in Boulder.