Story written and provided by Gloria Martinez, founder of WomenLed.org.
While the number of women in leadership positions is growing, only 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. And it’s not because women are underperforming — in fact, one study of female entrepreneurs found that women had to consistently outperform their male peers to secure funding.
Women face added challenges because they must balance being attractive, but not “sexy;” direct, but not “bossy;” and assertive, but not “aggressive.” They must be calm and patient in situations where a man’s frustration would be accepted as normal, and they have to advocate for themselves while simultaneously appealing to the notion of women as collaborative. And despite all the extra effort women have to make in order to be taken seriously, they still consistently earn fewer promotions and lower wages than their male counterparts.
So, how is a young woman supposed to crack the glass ceiling, let alone break it?
Don’t be passive and hope your talents and efforts are noticed, or expect opportunities to drop in your lap. Make a plan with SMART goals for how you want to progress in your career, make your achievements known, and ask for raises and promotions. Don’t expect them to be handed to you. Come armed with examples of your successes, and be prepared to demonstrate why you deserve recognition.
Build your personal brand. Having a strong image within your industry helps you build authority and name recognition and expand your professional network. Write and pitch articles to respected publications, participate in interviews and speaking engagements, and build an online presence that reflects your knowledge, professionalism, and values.
Develop a support network. Surround yourself with other women making professional headway, and spend time sharing strategies for success. Network with women in your field and supportive men in your workplace who can endorse your work.
Keep learning. Marketing in the digital age is an ever-changing field. Stay up on the latest in big data and social media, always be experimenting with new channels for reaching consumers, and make sure you can effectively translate data into strategy so you can sell your ideas to management.
Take risks. This is especially important in marketing, where innovation is the hallmark of success. As a young woman, you’re especially well-poised to identify new strategies because you’re a member of one of the biggest marketing demographics. Be creative and let experiences from your personal life inform your business strategies, and don’t give up at the first “no.” If you believe in your brainchild but your company’s leadership isn’t on board, don’t be afraid to pitch your ideas elsewhere.
No matter what you do, believe in yourself and your skills. Instead of letting unfair pushback get you down, use it as motivation to work that much harder for your goals. Trust your instincts and don’t lose sight of the end game — and most of all, never let your gender become a reason to settle.