Seventy years have passed since women left the confines of being homemakers and joined the work force en mass. Today, in 2012, there are only 12 Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEO’s. Perhaps it is time for another surge, time for women to take things to the next level by doing something that comes naturally to our male counterparts – compete. That is right Ladies. It is time to compete in the workplace and not just with each other!
A recent study conducted by Zenger Folkman tested males and females in leadership positions in the workplace. They tested leadership skills from development to problem solving to innovation etc. Out of sixteen competencies tested women scored higher in twelve. Out of fifteen industry categories women scored better than men in twelve. These results clearly show that women are excellent leaders and should be utilized as such within organizations and adding more women to leadership positions should increase effectiveness.
With results like this why are more women not in top leadership roles? There are various components such as taking time off to raise children, gender bias, and on and on. The truth is that while these things matter they discount the things we can control. We can choose to compete for the positions we want and set out to win. A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research details a study showing that women, when told they would be judged on performance and bonuses based on their performance against another coworker, would typically not apply for that job. They would be interested when thinking it had a standard pay structure but throwing in the competition and additional bonuses would deter them from pursuing it further. If, as this study suggests, women are deterred by competition no wonder there are more men in power positions! The CEO spot is not handed to someone that does not actively seek to take it, fighting off others as needed.
In Donald Quinns article on winning he wrote, “When winning becomes important enough to focus on, when we have the talent and skills needed we are primed to win.” That is the first step. Winning has to be important enough. If, as a woman, you really want that promotion or board seat you need to focus on getting it and be willing to compete for it. As the study mentioned above we are great leaders but in order for leadership qualities to shine you need to be in a position to use them.
Here are some tips for women that are willing to play the game and compete to win:
- Know what you are fighting for. Make your goal specific. Instead of saying “I want to be in a management position” say “I want to be Chief Operating Officer or the VP of Sales”
- Decide why you want to win and what the accomplishment would mean to you. Every good football movie has the moment where the coach gives an inspirational speech in the locker room. He reminds the team of why they are fighting, tears are shed and they go out to conquer. There will be hard days and discouraging moments so you need to know your “Why”
- Stop worrying about the guy (or gal) in the office next door! As women we can be too empathetic. While this is a wonderful trait in many areas of life it does not go well with competition. You can not spend time worrying about Jim getting a promotion so he can build the addition his wife always dreamed of. No! If you want that promotion do not think about Jims career path at all. These are your goals and achieving them means others will not. Get comfortable with that or do not play .
- Strategize. Reaching an important and ambitious goal requires steps. Strategize what you need to do, what positions you need to hold, where you need to work in order to reach your end goal. Focus on where your going but detail the steps along the way that will help you get there.
Each of us has strengths that when utilized make a positive impact on our organizations. You know your strengths better than anyone else. Do not wait for a superior to notice you and determine where you should be placed within the company. Set your sights on what you want and go for it. You will never win if you do not try.