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Women in leadership: 3 strategies for getting ahead

What works best for women who want to get the bigger projects, get a raise, or get that promotion?

4 min read


Credit: Pixabay

You are good at what you do. You’re competent, your team thinks highly of you, and your boss gave you a great performance review last quarter.

Still, even with nearly everyone around you agreeing you’ve got what it takes, you can’t just rest on your laurels or wait until someone notices that you deserve recognition.

Everyone — men and women — must put themselves to work when it comes to getting ahead. Many women find this to be more difficult; it can be daunting to assertively ask for more, and studies show that women are less likely to even try. An expensive mistake.

Lack of self-advocacy during salary negotiations costs the average working woman nearly $500,000 in lost wages by age 60. Still, other research indicates that being overly aggressive can be just as damaging for women.

So what works best for those who want to get the bigger projects, get a raise, or get that promotion?

Not all strategies pay off equally, and what works for men doesn’t always work for women. Studies show that the following tactics are the top picks for women looking to advance:

Make your work known. Nothing is as important to career advancement as self-advocating. Yet women are often reluctant to take the steps necessary to make sure everyone knows how good they really are.

Here’s a tip: Men are uncomfortable with self-promotion, too, and they also worry that co-workers and bosses won’t like them for being too assertive or too boastful. The difference? Men are less likely to let uneasiness stop them. When you feel that discomfort, try the following, rather than giving up or staying silent:

Tip for pushing through self-promotion discomfort
Credit: Joel Garfinkle

Network inside and outside your organization. it may seem like a big step to join a professional group or even presumptuous to insert yourself in a certain “league,” but persevere. It can be key to join and stay connected with a professional network that can help you advance and may even tip you off to upcoming opportunities.

Inside your company, find a mentor, male or female, who can help you navigate the internal politics, advocate for you higher up and coach you on your career development. Don’t be afraid to reach — studies suggest women don’t aim as high in the corporate chain as their male counterparts when seeking mentorship, and as such don’t reap as much reward.

Actively plan your career. First, as your own best advocate, it’s wise to have a solid plan for having your work recognized. Whether you plan to build on your career internally by climbing the ranks or you prefer to keep your eyes open for an external posting, (or you hedge your bets by doing both), it really does pay to have an action plan.

Rarely does coasting reap the same rewards.

Statistically, the best avenue may be career advancement within the company where you’ve proven your worth, but in the rapidly changing business landscape, many companies are actively seeking female talent anywhere and everywhere, so it pays to keep abreast of opportunities outside your organization.

If you’ve achieved career advancement, what did you do? Did you get that promotion? What strategies worked for you?


Joel Garfinkle is the author of “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.”  As an executive coach, he recently worked with a newly promoted leader helping her manage the new responsibilities, lead her team and manage high-level priorities. Sign up to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter (10,000+ subscribes) and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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