With Lord Davies’ targets to increase the percentage of women in the FTSE 100 boardrooms, we think this is fast becoming an issue that many smaller companies are realising the importance of tackling. However, even with these targets and the fact that women are being recognised more and more as great leaders, still only 6.2% of executive director positions in the FTSE 350 are filled by women. Moreover, we often see women working at very senior levels in organisations but when you look at the very top, at global and board roles, it’s often the case that men still dominate. Either way, it’s clear there are still challenges facing women in reaching those top jobs.
Despite increased awareness of getting more women on boards, a study by McKinsey proved men are promoted based on their potential while women are promoted based on evidence of previous performance. Moreover, further research shows companies still show a preference for financial experience when recruiting for executive roles, which is something that men tend to have more of. Finally, board sizes are getting smaller, partly due to increasing accountability in the wake of the economic crash. This means there are generally fewer executive positions going and therefore less opportunity for women to get to the top table.
So, with the challenges facing women and the increasing competition for diminishing roles, how can women with executive ambition improve their chances of getting hired to the boardroom? Here are some of my top tips which were explored in our recent event on this topic:
Secure a sponsor
Reach out and secure yourself a sponsor to help support you and develop your career path. A professional sponsor will help identify the right next career move for you and will help you achieve it.
Get out of your comfort zone
Push yourself out of your comfort zone to ensure you develop your commercial skillset. For instance, remember how financial experience is valued highly in executive roles? Well, if you don’t have much financial experience, consider enrolling on a financial course for non-financial managers, to help broaden your skills.
Work on your external profile
When speaker opportunities come along, accept them. If you are asked to comment or write for industry or national press, do it. And make sure you are positively making new connections i.e. the right people in the right places. All of these will help to build and enhance your external profile and you will start to ‘make a name’ for yourself in your sector.
Have confidence in your successes
Be positive about your achievements and focus on the return on investment in your LinkedIn profile and CV. They should be selling documents, making the reader want to learn more about you. Demonstrating your biggest career successes will help you stand out from the crowd when in tough competition for executive roles. Remember to highlight commercial achievements using active language.
If you would like to find out more about Sarah Hopkins, click here for her biography.