'Communities of support' help women reach the top - Metro US

‘Communities of support’ help women reach the top

Women may finally be climbing the corporate ladder faster and in greater numbers than ever before, but as Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D cautions, don’t be a managerial lemming.

In her recent book Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment And Direction (Berrett-Koehler), Reynolds points out that despite grabbing opportunity, not all of those employment acquisitions are beneficial.

“I did an informal survey with a group of professional women worldwide asking, ‘Would you take a job to fill a quota?’ The majority said yes, (feeling) this was the only way to make the changes to give women a voice at top levels and open doors to the women behind them,” she notes. “Although many would say that this is necessary to break down the control of the male elite, would you take a position based on filling a quota? This offer doesn’t sound attractive to me.”

An instructional book designed to develop and assist both current and aspiring female leaders in attaining/maintaining high-profile leadership roles, Wander Woman challenges those potential allowances in an effort to help women achieve managerial status on the basis of ability, professionalism and knowledge, not genus.

To that extent, Reynolds illustrates that companies must invest in their own future by re-aligning current executive mindset; eliminate hiring to “fill allocations” and establish stronger foundations of female employees moulded into management material beforehand, not as they assume the corner office.

“If leaders don’t have enough qualified women to promote, they should work on how they develop them (management training programs, working with coaches/mentors) and create corporate cultures that appeal to top female performers. This process might be slower than imposing quotas but it’s likely to get more buy-in from the women themselves.”

Similarly, onus is not entirely on organizations. Those striving to take on greater leadership roles must ensure they have the skill set necessary for senior positions, lest they be seen as attaining titles they were thrust into. Such perspectives only create tougher challenges in proving merit or escaping negative, conceivably envious co-workers.

“Women have to be responsible for their own development. If their companies don’t offer training and mentoring, they should seek it on their own,” Reynolds asserts. “This gives them the leverage to move on to another company that will value what they have to offer while their previous companies struggle to fill in the gaps.”

Essentially, Reynolds informs that promising female leaders must make two immediate commitments in order to be strong managers in the future: Ask others for guidance and work on developing personal and professional networks.

“One of the most difficult things for smart, ambitious women to admit is that they need help. However, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness,” Reynolds concludes sagely. “As for friends, they not only open doors and provide important connections but offer emotional support when difficulties and disappointments arise.”

“I call this network a woman’s ‘communities of support’ (and) according to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, successful people need them. Not rock stars, professional athletes, software billionaires or even geniuses ever make it alone.”

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