A woman’s career path can often be a  bumpy road and a long journey. From pay inequality to imposter syndrome, the glass ceiling continues to be an obstacle to career advancement for so many of us. We’re represented in the workforce more than ever and hold a higher percentage of managerial and executive jobs, but we’re still out there every day struggling to earn respect and shatter expectations for success.

Many companies are reporting a new, energized commitment to gender diversity, but that commitment still hasn’t translated into meaningful progress across the board. Progress isn’t just slow – in some cases, it’s stalled.

The Women in the Workplace 2018 qualitative study  (McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.org) probes so many of these issues, drawing on data from more than 64,000 employees at 279 companies worldwide.

So if progress is stalled, how can we continue to build momentum and prepare ourselves for real, tangible change?

 

Develop a Strong Personal Brand and Get it Out There.

If self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, there are other ways to show your areas of expertise. Send a monthly email to your boss to keep them updated on how you’re contributing and keep that documentation so you have it on hand for the next stage in your career journey.

Tap into your inner extrovert and look for networking opportunities everywhere, so you have options if your situation suddenly changes. Follow up with anyone who impresses you, ask for meetings and keep in touch.

 

Ask for Feedback and Take on New Challenges

The only way to improve is to know what to improve on. Employees who proactively ask for feedback from management and then implement it wisely typically end up being the top performers in their field.

If you’re asked to do something that excites you, always say yes, even if you don’t know how to approach the challenge. Have the confidence to try new things, or even take a lateral move to get a new perspective on your job. You’ll figure out the “how” later.

Document your goals with your manager, so you have a working agreement of your professional goals. Be persistent but stay patient. Not an oxymoron, just the truth.   Express yourself clearly and ask for what you want.

 

Find a Mentor. Be a Mentor.

I lean on women in business whom I respect and have worked well within the past. I reach out when I need help strategizing my company’s goals and messaging and even when I write down my thoughts as a female leader and want another opinion on my point of view.  I’d be lost without my kickass mentoring squad.

The best mentors are often women who have been in the business for a long time. Seasoned mentors are great, but also look for mentors who are just starting out, who can teach you things you just didn’t know you didn’t know about before. Think about ways to reverse mentor and offer them guidance, too.

 

Get Over Imposter Syndrome.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your coworkers and your friends might discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?

Imposter syndrome impacts us as women every day. We all know how it goes. You get the promotion and your inner narrative convinces you they must have been short on candidates. Your business has a great win, and you tell yourself it was sheer chance that the client found you. Or you’re in a meeting and you just know the boss will walk in any minute, tap you on the shoulder and tell you they’ve finally realized you really aren’t qualified for the job (even though you’re the most experienced person in the room). It can be completely derailing.

Most women (and even men) experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control your actions. An estimated 70% of people experience impostor feelings at some point in their lives, according to the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

I’ve had these feelings, too.  When it happens I repeat my own personal mantra.

“You are here for a reason. In this job, your business, your life, you are enough. You are better than you think you are. You are smarter than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for.”

This is what I preach, and this is what I practice.

Sure, the ceiling will probably always be there. But as more companies and colleagues continue to join the conversation,  the support should continue to grow.

In the meantime, it’s up to us to work hard, ask for change and remain fearless. So we can shatter that ceiling together.

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