Female leadership in business worldwide is at an all-time high: 87% of businesses now have at least one woman in senior leadership, a 12% increase in one year, according to the latest Women in Business research from Grant Thornton. And 29% of senior management roles are held by women, the highest number ever.
Opportunities for women are out there, and they are increasing. But there is still progress to be made. Only 5% of S&P 500 CEOs are women, and women still represent less than 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
There are many brilliant, highly qualified women out there ready to take on leadership positions in 2020, but like any job hunt, standing out from the crowd is half the battle.
This year, here are 20 ways you can boost your profile as a woman in leadership:
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. You never know when an opportunity will come up again.
- Put your hand up. You won’t get an opportunity if you don’t ask to be considered for it. If there’s a position open within your organization that you think would be a good fit, apply for it, even if it’s not in your area. If there’s not an opening, but you see one that’s possible, speak up.
- Don’t worry about “some day.” I know a lot of women who make decisions about “some day” instead of today. They say, “I’m not going to take that job with travel because I might want to have a baby some day.” Make decisions for your career based on the life you have now; you can figure out the rest down the road.
- Say yes to invitations. Keep in mind that networking should be authentic, not transactional. Look for women’s networking groups, conferences, dinners, associations and more.
- Include Conferences. There are an extraordinary number of conferences for women in leadership, from Fortune to Simmons to Yale’s leadership program.
- Get to really know people. Don’t ask for something from your new contacts. If you meet someone at an event or connect with someone on LinkedIn, don’t ask for something during your first meeting; get to know them first.
- Keep learning. If you are looking to add to, improve or change skillsets, consider graduate school or certification programs. Many schools have executive programs that can be done online, at night, or on weekends.
- Join your alumni organization. See if your city has any alumni events for your college or graduate school. This is a powerful networking opportunity.
- Read the memoirs of successful women. Sarah Lacy’s “A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug: The Working Woman’s Guide to Overthrowing the Patriarchy” is one of my new favorites. Learn what steps other women took to get to their success.
- Think bigger on LinkedIn. You should be posting content two to four times a month to stay actively engaged on LinkedIn. And think beyond the simple blog post to video posts and graphics.
- Update your resume. You should be updating your resume once a year, even if you’re not looking for a new position. This way, your recent accomplishments will be fresh in your mind.
- Volunteer. If you’re interested in switching industries, or are dying to get involved with an organization you admire, volunteer your time or skills; if a position comes up, they’ll think of you.
- Listen closely. It’s okay not to speak up all the time. You’d be surprised what tidbits of information you can gain if you’re not always stressing about how to make an impression. Some of the best opportunities come through information, not requests and not posted positions.
- Think globally. The Women in the World Summit celebrates women around the world on the front lines of change. Plus, you never know what opportunities could be waiting for you in another country.
- Join a board. Start looking for board opportunities, even if you’ve never served on one. TheBoardlist helps find women for company boards; Him for Her engages men to introduce talented women to corporate board service.
- Introduce yourself. If you’re interested in a board position or a new role, reach out to companies that are considering an IPO; they’re likely just starting to think about who might be on their board.
- Use an executive search company. Levia Partners specializes in finding diverse leaders with fresh and interesting perspectives.
- And be the one to help other women. Use any opportunity you have to help other women make connections and find positions. You never know when the favor will be returned – and it’s just the right thing to do.
- Don’t take things too personally. You won’t get every opportunity you try for, and that’s okay. Hold your head up and look for the next one.
- Finally, remember to put yourself on the list. Make time for yourself. Ask for help when you need it. You can’t be a rockstar mother, wife, friend, sister and business leader all at once. It’s okay not to be perfect. And don’t feel bad about enjoying a glass of wine after a long day.