The latest LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co Women in the Workplace report indicates some improvements in the number of women at senior levels having broken the “glass ceiling” as well as an increase in companies’ commitment to gender diversity and accountability from senior leaders. The study found that the biggest obstacle women face to advancing to leadership positions is that there were fewer opportunities to step up to their first managerial role – described as the “broken rung”. Fixing this “broken rung” is the key to achieving parity!

“For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry level and fewer women becoming managers. Not surprisingly, men end up holding 62 percent of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38 percent”

The report continues to outline the five actions organizations can take to change this imbalance;

  1. Set a goal for getting more women into first-level management – companies should put targets in place for hiring and promotions, the processes that most directly shape employee representation.
  2. Seek more diverse slates for hiring and promotions.
  3. Combat unconscious bias in the recruitment process via increased training for evaluators.
  4. Establishing clear evaluation criteria before the review process begins to prevent bias from creeping into hiring and reviews.
  5. Provide more opportunities for women to get the experience they need to be ready for management roles, as well as opportunities to raise their profile so their skills are visible.

All these actions place the onus on the employer and I don’t know about you but I like to have some control over my career. Handing over control to external forces or waiting for meritocracy to kick in are just some of the errors I see women make with regards to their career advancement. Read more about these and more.

Error #1: Allowing the organization to define your career

We’re often faced with a pre-determined skills and career progression path understandably based on what your organization’s needs, these however may not be the best course of action for you. The same way the organization assigns projects based on business priorities and opportunities without necessarily focusing on or assessing the strengths of individual employees, is the same way you need to ensure that the tasks and roles assigned to you, are aligned with direction you want to head. I bet you can identify someone in your company you think is in the wrong job especially when you see them struggling or even failing.

It’s your responsibility to discover how to capitalize on your strengths, not your employers. Increase your self-awareness, utilize your network to figure out how you’re being perceived within your organization, and then understand exactly where your strengths lie and how to leverage them to maximize your impact within the organization.

Error #2: Becoming risk averse in your role

Or just being complacent! Your job is like a comfy pair of slippers – you know exactly how they feel, how they fit and where they’ll be at the end of the day. Even with the most traditional careers and predictable paths, it’s essential to push yourself outside of your comfort zone – to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Volunteer for assignments or projects that can raise your profile within the broader organization.

If you’re not willing to get uncomfortable or push yourself forward, your employer might decide that you’re content where you are, squashing your career ascension.

Error #3: Staying in a corporate vacuum.

Your corporate bubble can be attitudinal – your views are narrow-minded and solely based on your opinion of your role and the organizational culture. In today’s world it’s far easier to expand your horizons with the proliferation of podcasts on pretty much any and every topic. Online, there’s an array of blogs and articles to be read and even online networking opportunities to meet peers and compare notes. Don’t wrap yourself in the corporate bubble, the broader your horizons, the readier you’ll be when opportunities present themselves.

Error #4: Neglecting your network

It’s important to build a strong network within your organisation. Up, down and sideways – you never who you’re going to meet on your career progression.

Ask for introductions, and keep the conversation going.

Don’t be afraid to invite managers or peers to meet to discuss opportunities to learn about their upcoming projects or initiatives and how you can participate.

Don’t wait until you need to tap into your network to build your network, that’s too late! Make it a habit to constantly seek out advice, sponsors, mentors and people who can keep you current with different perspectives. Set a goal to meet with someone on a regular basis to change your perspective on your current role and your career options.

Error #5: Assuming your company is responsible for your professional development

Personal development is an often used but rarely explained term. It doesn’t stop because you completed formal education, it doesn’t stop because you’re older, it’s not just further education. In essence it’s about investing in yourself so that you can manage yourself effectively no matter what life throws at you and it’s your responsibility – not your employer.

Personal development allows you to be proactive about your future rather than waiting for it happen. Invest in yourself, through seminars, reading, listening to podcasts, talking to others in your current or prospective field. Above all shift your mindset into controlling and owning your own destiny.