Written by Caryn Walsh, Business Consultant, International Leadership and team Development Specialist, Facilitator, Executive coach
The ‘glass ceiling’ has a limiting effect on the ability of women to grow into positions of substantial leadership in any industry and gender equality at senior levels, an area of significant concern, has yet to be achieved across most industries. There are exceptions, but they are few.
Some figures supporting the existence of gender inequality are featured throughout this article, but I believe, having worked with and coached women at all levels over 25 years, that a significant area for improvement of women in business is learning how to communicate assertively and confidently in everything they do.
Women in leadership – the competitive advantage
According to Forbes Magazine
The outcome of one of the most comprehensive worldwide surveys (conducted by Pittsburgh-based human resources consulting firm DDI) indicates that companies that perform best financially have the greatest number of women in leadership roles. In the top 20% of high performing companies financially, 27% of leaders are women. Among the bottom 20% of financial performers, only 19% of leaders are women.
Women leaders in Australia
Statistics indicate that women are under-represented in leadership positions in all sectors of the paid workforce, with an example being that women held 35.3 percent of Government Board Appointments, as at June 30 2011. In legal fields the percentage is even less, and whilst 61.4% of all law graduates are females, women hold only about 22% of the most senior positions in law firms. In the Federal Court of Australia, women make up on 16% of the bench.
The statistics in corporate Australia are more concerning, indicating that only 8.4% of Board Directorships are held by women. Of greater concern is that the number of women directors has increased only .2% since 2002. (Source: The EOWA 2010 Australian Census)
What stops Women?
There are various areas in which women appear to feel less confident or assertive as their male counterparts. One specific area is communication, where often the lack of assertiveness and confidence are often blatantly absent.
Tips to Communicate Assertively
- Say what you mean and mean what you say
- Be clear about the meaning behind your message
- There is a clear distinction between aggression and assertiveness, although they are often confused. Aggression is intimidating, dominating and is about power and control by one person over another. Assertiveness means to stand to your calmly, putting your point across without raising your voice or getting angry
- Your body language amounts to 75% of your communication. Stand tall, shoulders back, looking at the other person. The way your body positions itself is critical in how others perceive your message so use it to your advantage
- Listen to what the other person is saying. Try and understand where they are coming from before putting your view point across. That way you have enough information to make an informed decision about what you want to say
- Think win-win. Communication is always most effective when both parties walk away, having felt that they have resolved an issue and both had their say and were heard.
Learn how to be Confident
- You know your stuff. You do your job well and are better at it than others as you are the one doing it. Own it. Don’t let others dictate your role to you, particularly when you are good at what you do and others know that.
- Believe in yourself.
- In a meeting, if you feel you are not getting a chance to have your say, put your hand up. Be counted and make impact
- Follow your intuition. Whilst others may make comments about something related to your job, listen to them but at the end of the day make your own decisions
- Don’t be intimidated by another person who is louder or more extroverted. Stand your ground.
Caryn Walsh is at the helm of Pure Magic International Business Solutions. They develop leaders, people and teams in Organisations in Australia and internationally. Pure Magic trains and coach’s leaders and builds teams to become high performing. They run leadership programs, workshops and leadership Retreats and offer a range of leadership training and team building training programs and conference speaking.
This article previously appear on Liquid Learning