- Elke Jeurissen from straffemadammen

Develop your influence to ensure your succes

Just as men, women are ambitious and want to develop their full potential

Once again, we have proof of women’s ambition in the latest JUMP survey conducted with Leverage HR on more than 1,000 career women in Europe. Catalyst found the same when they surveyed women and men MBA-graduates: 95% of the women surveyed targeted top positions, vs. 97% of the men. All studies come to the same conclusion: just as men do, women want to make full use of their talent and achieve positions with a level of responsibility that really matches their skillset and commitment.

Our survey also shows that women feel ready to take on these responsibilities. They have come to understand that they have inner barriers and limiting beliefs, but they are working to overcome these. 78% of them thrive on change, and they feel ready to rise to challenges even if this means rebuilding a new balance between work and private life.

But power remains a man’s business. Indeed, the number of women in management committees of large companies is not increasing (13% in Belgium), and the number of women in management positions stagnating (about 30%).

According to Catalyst’s study on MBA graduates (for the US), women are more likely than men to be coached, counselled and apply for positions that require the development of new skills. Yet that is not enough… Only 25% of them are entrusted with the management of a business or activity with a budget of 8 million euros or more, vs. 40% of men.

Time to transfer to a more inclusive corporate culture

Women are perfectly aware of these difficulties. They perceive their value not to be compensated in the same way as that of men in terms of remuneration and advancement: 58% of the women we surveyed believe they are not paid the same as their male peers for similar performance in the same role and 45% of them believe they need more education and technical qualifications than their male peers to be considered for promotions. It is time for companies to seriously tackle these gender biases and transform their corporate culture into a more inclusive culture.

Our survey also revealed another critical barrier perceived by women: a lack of influence due to the absence or weakness of their professional network. Indeed, 53% of them believe that men at the office have a larger network than women, 58% do not have a group of trusted advisors and 40% lack supportive relationships in their professional life. This weakness is directly related to our choices on where we spend our time and energy. It is our responsibility to build and feed this network, or not.

You need to focus on your network

According to the AVTAR Group, that conducted a survey in 2015 on international mobility, women start to network around age 42 while men start around age 17! Women do understand that it is frequently outside working hours that one gets key information for a project’s success or new opportunities from colleagues or management. But then we do not have the same life as men. In a couple where both work full-time, the wife devotes an additional 1h30 per day to family tasks. Not to mention the weight of the mental workload that alienates us.

Also 8,000 years of patriarchy has shaped our unconscious minds… We feel guilt for all that time we do not dedicate to our families, from which men do not suffer, or very little. We also tend to sacrifice our interests for the “happiness” of our family. Not to mention our discomfort when we are required to value ourselves, talk about our successes, start conversations with people that we do not know (most often men) … all things that our mothers or grandmothers could not afford to do without disapproval. In their times, you had to “know your place” and the right place for women was absolute discretion in the public sphere. As a consequence, we do have an excuse for not networking enough, but as this is against our interests, we need to adopt a new attitude towards networking!

Step outside your company and join an external network

Taking time to network internally is essential, but you also need to do so outside your company. This is important to feed your thoughts and forge your opinions thanks to expertise from other professions and business sectors, to better understand your customers and to better identify new trends. External networking increases your ability to innovate and problem-solve in professional and personal challenges. It is also essential to bounce back over the course of your career. Catalyst has shown that women tend to invest more time in internal rather than external networking, penalising their search for new jobs considerably.

It is necessary to choose precisely which networks you wish to commit to and which events you wish to participate in. In your choice, you should not neglect women’s networks or events like JUMP that tackle equality at work. As women in the business world, we are not the norm. This explains why women are included in diversity policies despite representing half the human beings. We are still “outsiders” vs. a majority of men who hold the power, and we have to adapt to fit into companies with strong masculine cultures. To understand this world and its “unwritten rules” (made by men), it is useful amongst women to share our experiences, to give and take advice, and to support each other.

An interesting article from the Harvard Business Review published this year reports that women who participate in a business event for women or for equality at work, are twice as likely to get a promotion and three times as likely to get a salary increase in the following year! More importantly, they feel more confident in their abilities, more optimistic in their professional future, and perceive a more intense connection to others.

All the more reason to participate in the Straffe Madammen network or the Fierce Ladies meetings and to save the date of the 26th March 2019 for the JUMP Forum in Brussels!

Isabella Lenarduzzi, Founder and Director of JUMP“Promoting Gender Equality, Advancing the Economy”

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