Navigating the corporate world as a woman in leadership can sometimes feel like steering a sailboat against the wind. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve coached over the years who have all met challenges when it comes to rising in the ranks at work. For those that succeed long term, it’s a journey that demands resilience, ingenuity, and an intentional commitment to their own professional development and learning.
The truth is, even today women continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles. The WGEA Scorecard 2022 (1) underscores this reality, revealing that men are 1.5 times more likely to occupy managerial positions than women. Let that stat sink in for a moment. This gender imbalance persists despite compelling evidence that increased female representation in key decision-making roles contributes to enhanced company performance. It seems like a no-brainer for companies to be promoting more women into leadership – so why isn’t this more the case?
I’ve always been a believer that when it comes to your career, you need to take charge – no one else will do it for you. One surefire way women can position themselves to rise the ranks into leadership roles is to invest in their own professional development and learning. That means being proactive in learning new skills and behaviours, and taking the initiative to step outside of your comfort zone.
Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche, in their Harvard Business Review article titled “The Best Leaders are Constant Learners” (2), suggest that leadership isn’t a destination you arrive at one day, but a never ending journey – one that’s intrinsically linked to an ongoing learning process. I love this sentiment and believe it holds particularly true for women wanting leadership roles, given the distinct challenges they commonly encounter.
With the corporate world making concerted efforts to foster gender diversity and inclusion, the spotlight on female leaders has never been brighter. This increased visibility, while creating more opportunities, also brings with it heightened scrutiny and expectations. So I’m here to tell you, this ultimately means that remaining static is simply not an option. To attain and maintain hard-earned leadership positions, inspire future generations of female leaders, and contribute to your organisation’s success, you need to be committed to constant evolution, learning, and growth. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into exploring the real benefits of investing in your professional development!
Evolving global trends, technological advancements, and dynamic business landscapes require leaders to stay ahead of the curve. Actively learning and improving your career skills has been shown to enhance leaders’ ability to adapt to these changes, and as Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” (3), suggests, adopting a growth mindset is a crucial step toward achieving this. A growth mindset, marked by a belief in the capacity to develop and improve through effort and learning, allows leaders to face challenges with an eye for opportunities rather than impediments.
Female leaders who embrace continuous learning display resilience and adaptability, inspiring the same traits in their teams. By fostering an environment of curiosity and growth, they nurture innovation and problem-solving capacities within their teams, driving both individual and organisational success.
Historically, women have had to overcome entrenched societal biases to reach leadership roles, often referred to as breaking the glass ceiling. Cliché… sure. But is it true? Yes! According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, only a slim 36.2% of senior and leadership roles globally are filled by women (4). Yes, it seems the ‘glass ceiling’ is still very much in place. But there’s hope yet, and it comes in the form of continuous learning.
This consistent pursuit of knowledge and skills upgrade is more than just a personal growth tool. It’s an enabler for women who aspire to leadership roles. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, we’re doing more than just showcasing our capabilities. We’re challenging, and ultimately reshaping, gender stereotypes. And in doing so, we’re not just paving the way for ourselves but for future generations of female leaders.
Promoting a culture of learning within the organisation is equally important, and women in leadership positions can play a pivotal role in this. By sharing their own experiences of learning, they can inspire their teams to follow suit.
As the McKinsey report “Women in the Workplace 2022” (5) points out, companies need to foster an inclusive culture for women to ascend to leadership roles. A culture of learning, where everyone is encouraged to develop, and mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn, is an essential aspect of this inclusive culture.
In my many years as an executive career coach I’ve seen time and time again that it’s the women who have the ability to commit to their personal and professional development who will significantly accelerate their success as they navigate their leadership journey. An investment in your personal growth and development is truly the best investment you could make, with the dividends paying off tenfold over many years.
If you’re craving more and feeling ready to elevate your career by investing in YOU, I encourage you to check out our RISE Elite program.
RISE Elite is our intensive four-month program tailored specifically for women who are committed to expanding their professional horizons. The program, with its transformational 1:1 coaching sessions, is designed to identify and map out your professional goals. As a participant, you’ll join an exclusive group of ambitious women who, like you, understand the importance of continuous learning in achieving leadership excellence.
The program offers a supportive and safe space – both in-person and online – where you can address and navigate your unique professional challenges. Here, you are encouraged to continually stretch your boundaries, acquire new skills, and gain insights that contribute to your personal and professional growth. As you navigate through this journey, you will be held accountable, supported, and cheered on as you rise to the career you deserve.
Remember, your success as a female leader is about more than reaching a particular destination; it’s about the journey. It’s about persistently seeking knowledge and experiences that enrich your leadership capabilities. As women in the workplace, we carry the potential to shape the future in unprecedented ways, and our journey can serve as a beacon for others, illuminating the path for future generations of women aspiring to leadership roles.
Embrace the process of continuous learning, lean on the right support, and there will be no limit to what you can achieve. So, strive to learn, grow, and RISE, because your brilliant career awaits. The future of female leadership looks bright, and it begins with you.