One of the strongest comments made about the average professional woman is their reluctance to step up, engage and make themselves visible.
What are you doing to become visible?
The creativity required to dream up the excuses I hear from these ladies alone, suggests their inner capabilities. They are first class.Women are long-term relationship builders so this is an area in which they should excel, but yet they still hold back. This of course means that there are a reduced number of visible female role models to emulate at all levels, not just at the top. According to a recent study by Mercer, only 5% of respondents indicated that they provide a “robust programme” to develop female leaders. So although there is much talk about what governments and organisations can do for us women, there is so much more that we can do for ourselves. We cannot hang around waiting for other people to take care of us!
All women should create one or more on-line, comprehensive, professional profiles. And then engage. This sends out a message that you take your careers and professional activity seriously. They must include a professional biz photo. Many women are not keen on this for any number of reasons, but mainly I have found it is related to confidence issues and insecurities regarding their appearance as well as concerns about wide internet exposure. As a lady of a certain age I can empathise with both concerns. But women understand the power of appearance and should use that to their advantage, even if it means an extra trip to the hairdressers, perhaps more makeup than usual and a good photographer. This is head and shoulders only. If it was a bikini shot I’d be with you!
OK, firstly professional platforms are not dating or “adult ” friendship sites, or super model contests and although I do know one woman who has received any number of marriage proposals, I think that is the exception rather than the rule. It also depends on the way women individually conduct themselves and of course, there are many filtering possibilities for any unwanted, inappropriate behaviour. Today, women have to network with people they may not know personally. This of course could expose them to that general vulnerability that the internet facilitates, in the way that walking down a street can expose any women, anywhere, to any number of weirdos. It is always possible to block or report the offending person. For those who are really concerned I would suggest starting in an environment in which you feel comfortable, perhaps a women’s group and build on from that. Create a separate email account specifically for networking if it’s a clogged inbox that is a concern. I drank two (large) glasses of wine before I pushed the publish button on my first blog post, so it’s something I can relate to.
Women often say they have no time to network or take on anything extra. Getting out there and participating whether on-line or IRL ( In Real Life) is vital. The reluctance of women to network strategically puts them at a significant disadvantage. Don’t forget there is no such thing as time management – it’s you management and about the allocation of priorities. Give yourself priority. Strategically select the networks which will be most useful to you and be active. Engaging online is also something that can be fitted in with other responsibilities, so is a perfect instrument for women and is entirely self scheduling.
Waiting for the perfect moment
There can be a tendency with women to get caught up in the “getting it right” rather than ” getting it done”, even in very low risk situations. This is a good moment to ask that time-honoured question ” What is the worst thing that could happen?” The realistic worst case scenario is usually far removed from the anticipated catastrophe.
Women very frequently wait for recognition. We wait to be invited, endorsed and promoted. This is the time to find your personal power and exercise it. Self promote and give yourself the award. Some inner work examining skills and challenges will help build up that much-needed confidence, so that elevator soundbites can be delivered with the words “I successfully + verb…”, ” My strengths are..” If you struggle with this, please find a mentor or a coach to support you. And yes, you have incredible skills and talents, but if you don’t know what they are how do you expect anyone else to?
Change your Christmas List
This brings me neatly to this point. Women seem reluctant to invest in personal professional development. This was eloquently developed by Anne Perschel of Germane Consulting in her post ” Ditch the Glass Slippers and Power up the Ruby Reds..” Women make up the world’s greatest emerging market and although we will spend money on any number of luxuries, we tend to invest less in our careers and professions which seems incredibly short-sighted. Who else is going to do that? Brian Tracey suggests that we spend 3% of our income on personal development. It was a gender neutral statement. So ask your friends/ family/Significant Other to dump Dior, or bin the Michael Boublé Compilation CD for Christmas, Valentine’s or your birthday, to give you a subscription to a professional journal, a business book, an appointment with a professional photographer or a workshop. Better still, treat yourself!
Become a mentor
Women of any age and position in their professional life, even entry-level can mentor other women. Be active in connecting and endorsing women who can support each other, or have some other mutually beneficial relationship. Until women step up in the way that men do, we will always be one step behind. We have to pay it forward.
So what are you doing to become visible, today?
Dorothy Dalton is a global talent management strategist working on both sides of the executive search and research spectrum from ” hire to retire.” Dorothy is Co-founder of 3Plus International, an organisation set up to support, promote and sponsor women to achieve their career goals into more senior professional roles, via the creation of gender-balanced shortlists. You can read more of her work at
Ladies get your heads above parapet was first publish on her blog www.dorothydalton.com in December 2010