Worldwide, women only occupy 24% of senior roles as of 2018. Women around the world are doing their part to close this gap, by furthering their education, aggressively pursuing leadership roles and paving their own way as entrepreneurs and startup founders.
But once women earn a seat in the boardroom, it’s another battle altogether. For many women in senior roles, they are the lone female voice in the boardroom. Of the 100 companies in the Nasdaq stock index, which includes Tesla, Uber, Airbnb and other well-known globals, 37 have only one woman in the boardroom, eight have none at all and not one board is at least 50% female.
Being the only woman in the boardroom takes a toll on a person’s mindset. On top of fulfilling a demanding role, the immense pressure of being the sole female voice can bring out insecurities and issues that we may think we’ve gotten past.
Are you expected to represent the skills and capabilities of all women in your company? Can you represent them well? Were you promoted because of merit or simply to fulfill a quota? Not to mention people’s unconscious bias when it comes to women leaders from both genders, it’s a genuine issue to be addressed.
In a study for LeanIn and McKinsey, women who find themselves in this position are 50% more likely to consider leaving. That’s why it’s so important to focus and work on your mindset when you get to this critical stage in your career so you can continue fulfilling your role, showcasing your expertise and even open doors for more women voices.
Here are some tips on how to work on your mindset once you have earned a seat at the table:
When you begin to second-guess your role and value, remind yourself how you got to where you are. Trust in your education, experience, expertise and skills to navigate your role and know you deserve to be there. Start making self-affirmations a daily practice, either in your head or by writing them down to keep you from going down the path of doubt. You can also seek support from other women, in support groups or women’s groups. You can even start one at work, which is a great way for women in your workplace to band together and work towards more diversity.
Focus on the Work
At the end of the day, you have a job to do. Focus on your role and what you need to do to be successful. If people think you’re just a token, so what? You know yourself, your intelligence, and you know how hard you’ve worked. Focus on what you know, instead of what other people think of you, and use that to fulfill the job expected of you.
Embrace Being a Woman Leader
Women lead and think differently. That’s a great thing! Your diverse voice is an asset to your company. Don’t dampen it by emulating the attitude and leadership of your male peers. Embrace your difference and use that to offer new perspectives and insights that could very well benefit your company’s bottomline.
Don’t wait for your boss or your colleagues to ask for your opinion. Remember, your voice carries as much weight as your peers. You don’t need their permission to speak up.
Companies also need to take action to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive, this includes the boardroom and decision-making roles. It starts with ensuring women talent have equal access to opportunities that help them move their career forward and pursue leadership roles. Companies can also start proactively seeking diverse voices, by asking them, instead of just waiting for minorities to speak up.
The main theme for the Rise and Lead Summit 2019 is: Women. Business. Sustainability. With a focus on how accelerating gender balance can lead to business sustainability and wealth creation for women, their families, companies and society. The conference will feature keynote addresses, interactive panels, and facilitated workshops. Register for your tickets for September 19 and 20 today.
Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.