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International Women’s Day is a Time For Celebration…Or Maybe Not!

March 6, 2012

March 8 marks the 103rd International Women’s Day, a time to reflect on the progress women have made around the world. But, it appears there will be few celebrations at corporations due to women’s progress in career advancement to the senior management ranks coming to a dead-halt since the 1980s, according to a recent Conference Board of Canada study. Potential Unlimited, a firm that specializes in leadership development of women, warns corporations that the number of women executives could be a lot higher if the right support was put into place for women leaders and rising stars.

“I work with a lot of frustrated women who are rising stars at their corporations,” said Carey-Ann Oestreicher, Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited. “These women are looking for more support from their companies in terms of mentorship, coaching and flexibility. I have been a vice president in the corporate world and I know there are a lot of one size fits all initiatives out there and the reality is they are not meeting the needs of women executives. Companies need to be more innovative in their approach to promoting and retaining women employees.”

Oestreicher also suggests some women set their sights too low, saying “Often women don’t believe they are ready for that big promotion due to lack of confidence. As a result, they don’t go for it and lose the opportunity.” In order for more women to get into top leadership roles, they need to have the support of their companies and be willing to take more risks themselves.

Potential Unlimited’s Top Tips for Women Climbing the Corporate Ladder:

1. Be true to yourself. Trying to be somebody you are not will not get you ahead in the long term.

2. Speak up. Share your ideas – they could make the difference.

3. It’s okay to take risks and make mistakes. Many women have developed the ‘perfectionist’ gene and are afraid to take risks. Or if they do make that leap, they worry about it and cause themselves a lot of undue stress.

4. Get in shape to go the distance. If you aspire to the senior ranks, then get your mind and body in shape by implementing regular exercise, healthy diet and meditation/yoga into your life to help manage your stress levels.

5. Work with a coach and mentor. There is no regulated training for coaches, but Potential Unlimited coaches have all completed the Coaches Training Institute program. Before hiring a coach, research his/her qualifications.

6. Don’t try to be all things to all people. We know this doesn’t work in business so why do women continually do this in their own lives? The reality is that work-life balance at the senior level is about deciding on priorities and delegating or outsourcing the rest.

7. Sell yourself. Women tend to be modest and like to support others, which is great for building relationships but they need to promote themselves too. Ensure the president and boss (if they differ) know the details of your successful projects. Also, these conversations are a great chance to build relationships. And, people often promote those capable individuals they also like.

8. Find a networking group of other women to join for support. If you can’t find a suitable one, create it yourself!

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