New Year, New Insights on Women's Advancement

Much of the effort that organizations invest in women's advancement isn't solving the talent development challenges executives care most about. Sure all the advice today’s diversity and learning functions are giving women is helpful, but it falls short in fueling the pipeline for women into senior and executive positions.

For example, in December, Catalyst’s published its latest census of Fortune 500 companies with the headline No Change for Women in Top Leadership. While we can celebrate the fact that the pipeline of middle management and feeder professional/technical positions remains around 50% women, we must also decry the fact that the percentage of women at the top remains below 20% and hasn’t changed significantly in over a decade (as measured by the percent of F500 women corporate officers it has actually declined in 2012 to 14.3%). 

How can this be when there have never been more consultants, coaches and companies offering services to support women’s careers?

One reason is that the vast majority of the advice given to women today is essentially repackaging of advice that has been around since the 1970s. While this guidance has been instrumental in helping women advance from career-start into middle management, it is woefully insufficient in preparing them to move into senior and executive positions.

Traditional advice lays a strong foundation for career success, but it will only take women so far. Take a look and you'll notice that most traditional advice is focused on helping women move from career-start to middle management.


Career-Start to Middle
Middle to Senior/Exec
Learn to self-promote

Learn to speak up, be more assertive

Become more confident

Set ambitious goals, don’t leave before you leave

Get a mentor

Learn to network

Enhance your personal brand

Develop executive presence

Ask!, and negotiate more effectively

Have an elevator pitch


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Delivering traditional advice to help your organization move women from the middle to the top is like giving them a 5-speed bike to compete in the Tour de France. It won’t help them keep up with the pack.

At Leading Women we are expert at delivering the tools that women need to transition from the middle into senior and executive positions. If you’d like to learn more about bringing our Breakthrough Leadership content to your organization, email us.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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