Five elements of success for women in the corporate world - a view from across the pond

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A career and a board role are not either/or options but both/and. That this was a key message of Gloria Larson’s inspiring session ‘Advancing Women in a corporate world: A View From Across the Pond’ at the University of Westminster on Thursday, 17 June 2015, became immediately obvious as, with huge energy and enthusiasm, she described her current roles and responsibilities: President of Bentley University – a leading American business school based outside Boston, with over 6,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students from 82 countries – Gloria is also leading Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. 

Gloria was visiting London to explore the Olympic site and learn about the benefits and legacies of London 2012. Gloria talked through her career, using her experiences to illustrate research conducted by McKinsey consultants Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, and published in How Remarkable Women Lead. Like many women, Gloria’s career journey has been varied, involving sideways, as well as upwards moves. She explained how these have taken her between roles and responsibilities, government departments, NGOs and private legal practice, facing different challenges each time.

Her university education started at Vassar, then an all-female university. She then moved to the male-dominated University of Virginia Law School: this was, she felt, a key moment in her preparation for professional life. Although a few years have passed since then, not much has changed. Today, 50% of people entering the job market in the US are women. Of these, only 37% are female middle and 27% senior managers, and only 4.6% of CEOs. UK and European figures are similar.

Combine five elements for success

Gloria took the audience through the five elements Joanna Barsch and Susie Cranston identified that women need to achieve successful careers. These are:

1. Meaning 

Having an overarching goal enables you to focus and make better career choices. Gloria described her purpose as ‘making a difference’ - something I am sure that many of us can relate to. The strength of this belief has, throughout her working life, clearly ensured her career decisions enable her to do this. 

2. Connecting

Find sponsors who understand your skills, aptitudes and, your career aspirations - someone who will champion you to others and encourage you to meet challenges. This is particularly important for women, because men get promoted on potential, women on experience. And, where men will apply for jobs where they meet less than 50% of the essential criteria, most women won’t, unless they meet at least 80%. 

3. Framing

Learn from your mistakes, be realistic and take corrective steps. Gloria led one major project that was widely expected to fail. To give it the best chance of success and to manage expectations, she chose ‘to drink my own castor oil’. She called regular press conferences to explain the challenges they face and how these were being addressed. The project was completed on time, within budget and – importantly – with stakeholder support.

4. Engaging

Find your own voice and take risks. Women – although very good at supporting, promoting and celebrating the achievements of others – are often uncomfortable talking about their own successes. So, promote your own role too: otherwise you may not receive credit for your achievements, or be passed over for promotion. The best way to get used to self-promotion is to practice. Start asking for feedback and sharing this with others. You will soon see the effects.

5. Energising

Make time for yourself. As Gloria said, ‘don’t do anything you hate – all day’. Ensure you have your own support system and make time to use it. 


Getting women into the corporate positions, reaching the boardroom and the top of a company needs the involvement of the whole corporate world. CEOs in particular need to take a personal stand on equality and diversity. As Gloria admitted, this culture change is not quick or easy. But with focused effort and women being more assertive in their career choices, we can get there. Gloria referenced the millennial generation’s more enlightened attitudes to work and work-life balance. Born between 1980 and 2000, they have less company loyalty than earlier generations and both men and women want more flexible working arrangements. But culture change is everyone’s responsibility – wherever you are in your career journey. As Gloria stated - ‘Start from where you are!’
 
 
Dr Ruth Sacks developed and runs Women for the Board – a programme for senior women who want to achieve these board level positions. Ruth can be contacted on  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Information on this programme can be found on the Westminster Business School website.


 

Comments 

 
# Robertaxory 2018-10-26 06:46
Hello. And Bye.
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# Robertrek 2018-10-27 07:03
Hello. And Bye.
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# Robertrek 2018-10-29 23:30
Hello. And Bye.
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