5 Strategies for Women to Promote Our Professional Growth

Sarah Malcolm
As it comes to the end of Women's History Month, I want to talk about empowering women in the workplace. I feel fortunate to have had strong female role models in my life that were also high-level executives breaking barriers in male-dominated industries. I really believe in the power of women to change the world. Through blogging, podcasts, and mentoring, I have found it fulfilling to share the lessons I have learned along my career journey.

While we can say the times are changing, I still feel we have more strides to make for total equality within the workplace. One statistic says that while women hold over half of all professional-level jobs, only 36% are at the first or mid-level officials and managers at the S&P 500. Only six percent are CEOs. Specific to the CRE industry, 2015 research from CREW found men continued outnumbering women in C-suite positions. As it comes to the end of Women's History Month, I want to talk about empowering women in the workplace.

I feel fortunate to have had strong female role models in my life that were also high-level executives breaking barriers in male-dominated industries. I really believe in the power of women to change the world. Through blogging, podcasts, and mentoring, I have found it fulfilling to share the lessons I have learned along my career journey.

Flexible work options

The reality is women still bear the brunt of child-rearing and are more likely to take time off from their careers for their families. However, how we structure that time is vastly individual. Women opt for part-time work or take a set time off, like a few months or a year.

One problem is some women want to keep working but feel they can't because they're not being supported in the workplace. But with today’s technology, work doesn’t always have to happen in an office. Think about it: we have Slack, Trello, and Podio as communication and workflow tools,remote meeting apps like Go To Meeting and Zoom, and remote time trackers like Hours and Monday.

A company able to be flexible with where and when employees work will actually attract diverse workers and build their loyalty. We can help advocate and introduce these initiatives in our workplaces.

The thing is, companies can't have flexible practices and have an underlying culture that passively punishes people for using them. You’ll hear about this when people are passed over for growth opportunities. Leaders have to actually support these flexible policies.

Self-advocacy

Sometimes women have a mindset that the results will speak for themselves. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.We have to learn how to stick up for ourselves and our accomplishments in the professional setting.

Lynette Grinter from Truss put it very succinctly in her interview with Thrive Global: “A lot of women I know prove themselves first, and let the work speak for itself. Men tend to carry the confidence first, take on challenges and prove themselves later.Women need to be bigger advocates for themselves and for other women because of this.”

We know what we are capable of, but sometimes we're not communicating that to the stakeholders. We need to make it clear we are here to grow and advance in our careers. Be vocal about what we are able to produce. Only then will the results speak for themselves.

Share the work

The more senior you become, the more high-level your work becomes, and the less time you have for “busy work”activities. Women have to let go of our “I-do-it” attitude. We need to distribute work to our appropriate employees so we have the time to think through strategic initiatives and the high-level revenue-producing activities.

Communicate career goals

Even today, a woman can be sidelined or passed over for an employment opportunity because of the “mom-factor.” Some employers will look at a woman and think, “Oh, she might be having children soon and will need too much time off to do the job effectively,” or, “she just had a kid, so all her focus will be on being a Mom.”

As a mom of three boys, I can tell you how much I resent this mindset. We can be a parent and still have professional career goals.

One way to tackle this obstacle is to share our career goals. Sometimes, women are passed over for opportunities to go to a conference or to take on a project simply because we haven't communicated where we plan to go professionally in 1, 3, 5 years.

It makes an impression when an entry-level employee says, “One day, I want to be a chief marketing officer.” When their superiors know that person's end game, they're always going to have in the back of their mind what that person will need to know to become a CMO. They could be first in line when a growth opportunity arises.

Sharing where you plan to go is how you get the support you need to progress, even if you do choose to take some time for family.

Personal belief in your advancement

Having a mentor and bosses who believe in you and your talent is definitely helpful. Working under someone who encouraged me and fostered my growth has been invaluable in my own career. I know not everyone is so lucky.

It's imperative that you personally believe that nothing will stand in your way of advancement. There are no barriers for women. We can do anything, truly. And if you feel like organizational barriers are standing in the way of your advancement, it's time to find some other place to work.

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