8 Steps Women Can Take To Land A Promotion, Even In A Crisis

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One of the many unintended consequences of this pandemic-economic crisis, is that women’s advancement is being paused and even derailed – even though many companies have set diversity goals and developed women’s initiatives.

According to a recent study by LinkedIn, women are less likely to be rehired than men after the economic crisis subsides, as so-called “diversity hiring” no longer becomes a priority, despite the companies’ rhetoric.    

Another reason women’s jobs are most at risk in a downturn is that middle management is often the first level laid off in a downsizing, and women tend to dominate middle management. Why? Because white men are promoted much more quickly.  At entry level roles, men and women are recruited equally (sometimes more women are recruited or entry-levels than men). But the C-Suite is still 90-95% white male. 

Research from the American Sociological Society for example, found that: “the odds for white men being in management post-downsizing increase by over 15 percent, but decline for white women and black managers by about 16 and 12 percent, respectively,” and can be as much as 20 percent. Last month, I wrote about steps companies can take to retain or rehire more women.

Here are 8 steps women can take in a downsizing to keep their jobs and even to advance.  In addition to tapping into my own experience and strategies my coaching clients have found successful, I spoke with Colleen Biggs, Founder and CEO of Lead Up For Women, a membership organization for women who want to grow their business or career.  Before starting Lead Up, she climbed the ranks to a top executive job at The Little Gym over a 17-year career there.

·      Crow about your successes in real time: Don’t wait until your performance review to talk about your successes; do so in real time. “You have got to promote yourself. You’ve got to step into the spotlight,” Biggs insists.  When an initiative you led or played a key role in generates great results, for example, capture a screen shot of it or save the report describing it, and send it to your boss congratulating the team for its success and talking about your role in a respectful but clear way. This reminds your bosses about your value to the organization.

·      Keep records of compliments on your work and your accomplishments: Keep that screen shot or report for your records, including in a file for your next discussion about a promotion or raise.

·      Don’t focus on fitting in: As Biggs explained on my podcast, “When you give yourself the permission and the freedom to show up as you, you’re bringing your best strengths forward, your best foot forward, you’re bringing your openness to other conversations, to other opportunities of perspectives.”

·      Help other women and partner with other women to create more opportunities for women: One hindrance to women’s advancement is often perceived competition between women for spots, or that there are “enough” women in management. By helping each other and creating more spots, you’re obliterating those obstacles.  

·      Ask questions at the table – not later: So often women don’t speak up during important meetings, but raise insightful questions later.  Asking questions in an open forum is an important way to demonstrate your value to the organization. No one thinks like you, so show that. As Biggs says repeatedly, “Speak up.”

·      Learn from people who disagree with you: This includes when you ask those questions or raise an issue in those meetings, by asking them to explain it further. Don’t just be quiet and defeated. Probe. Everyone will likely learn something and you’ll show your insightfulness and ability to manage disagreement, which is an important leadership skill.

·      Learn to deal with difficult people:  People who can get along with many times of people in the organization, last longer and climb higher. Biggs suggests, “I think the number one thing in this is compassion and getting to know their map of their world. How?… Ask a lot of questions. Why do they feel that way? What are they frustrated about?” And, figure out what you can solve for them.

·      Apply for jobs that interest you, regardless of the qualifications: “If there’s a job available, and you don’t even think you qualify 50%, apply for it. Apply for things you don’t even think are possible, just go for them and believe they are possible.” Biggs suggests.  Find whoever would know about the job, or who could influence the hiring decision, and ask them about the role too, to bring your unique qualifications to light. You may bring valuable  qualifications not mentioned in the posting.

Biggs reminds us of the cost of sitting on the sidelines we want to be in arena: “We only have one life here on this earth and you only have one chance to be you. So, who are you waiting for to press ‘go’? What are you waiting for to press ‘go’? And why aren’t you living the life of your dreams? You know your boundaries. …Believe in yourself. You’ve only got one chance.”

You can listen to my full interview with Colleen Biggs on my podcast, Green Connections Radio, here.



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