According to a 2022 survey, women are 13% less likely than men to be promoted from an entry level job to a manager. This type of gender inequality has been called the women’s leadership gap and it speaks to the unique set of challenges women face when it comes to moving up at work.
Despite some hurdles, there’s a lot you can do to stand out and make sure you’re being rewarded for the effort put in at the office. We pored through all of the research and expert advice out there—and mined our own experiences—to put together a list of actionable steps you can take to break through and reach your full potential at work.
Own Your Power
A recent study found that women are less likely to tell their bosses that their work is outstanding – even if they’re doing outstanding work. This gender gap in self-promotion can have big consequences in the workplace, often resulting in female team members receiving less credit for their quality work. In turn, this can make it less likely that they receive a promotion or raise. Next time you do a self-evaluation, think about giving yourself a higher score than feels natural. It might feel unnatural, but it can go a long way to making sure you stand out.
Find Your Champions
Navigating the workplace can be tricky and it helps to have as many people in your corner as possible. Networking groups, professional societies, and mentoring programs all offer opportunities to build the kinds of professional relationships that can give you an advantage at work. Mentorship, in particular, is an important resource. By developing a close relationship with a woman in a leadership role, you can learn from someone who’s already been there. This will give you a critical leg up as you manage your career goals.
Fact Check: A study of a mentorship program conducted by Sun Microsystems showed that mentees were promoted over six times more than people who didn’t have mentors.
Ask for More
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to ask to be recognized and rewarded regularly for your hard work. Unfortunately, reality isn’t perfect. Managers get busy, budgets tighten, and promotions can slip through the cracks. Sometimes, a boss needs their attention drawn to all the quality work you’ve been doing. If you think you deserve a promotion, ask for one. Even if it doesn’t pan out right away, it tells your manager that you’re eager for more responsibility and ready for progress in your career.
Putting yourself on the line isn’t easy, and often feels awkward or intimidating. If this type of discussion doesn’t come naturally to you, try rehearsing it with a partner or friend. Get the muscle memory in, so it feels easier when it comes time to do it for real.
Be Prepared: Make sure to come ready with specific examples of your hard work and achievements. Pull numbers, get hard facts, and be able to show how you’re contributing to the success of the company.
Make a Plan for Success
We all know how hectic work can be. Between meetings, projects, and deadlines, it can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and forget to think about the future. That's why it's important to have a long-term plan. Think about where you want to be in the next year. Write this down and create smaller milestones and check-ins for yourself along the way. By scheduling time to think about your future, you can ensure that you're not only crushing the small stuff, but that you're on track to your larger goals as well.
Helpful Hint: Try sharing this plan with a manager or mentor. By letting your colleagues know your goals, you let them know that you're serious about your professional future.
Take a Moment
When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. This might be a cliche, but it’s rooted in truth, and it’s something worth considering as you develop your career. If you don’t love what you do (or if the bad days outweigh the good ones), the hard work it takes to climb the ladder will feel infinitely harder. In fact, many high-profile women in leadership positions only truly broke out when they reassessed their careers and started following their passions.
It may seem like a small thing, but it’s worth asking yourself every once in a while: why am I doing this work? Do I enjoy it? If the answer’s yes, you’re already halfway there.