At Cranfield, we have a long history of championing women in leadership, having published our annual Female FTSE Index since 1999, which provides a regular measure of the percentage of female directors on corporate boards for the UK’s top companies.
The way women are viewed in the workplace is changing – for the most part for the better. But, unfortunately, the way gender discrimination occurs is changing too.
Speaking to Business Because, Dr Doyin Atewologun, Director of the Gender, Leadership and Inclusion Centre at Cranfield, said: “One of the challenges we find today is that people aren’t blatantly saying: ‘I’m not going to give you this job because you’re a working mother’, […] but a lot of our behaviours and actions subconsciously tune in to these messages.”
Women still need to break glass ceilings to access top-level leadership positions in business, which are traditionally occupied by men. Cranfield’s research shows that while the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards increased to 29% in 2018, under 10% of women on those boards held executive positions.
Women therefore need a strategy for how they are going to get ahead in business, and encouraging statistics show the path to success may start at business school. Some 42% of the students on Cranfield’s Master’s in Management course are women, and 95% of our MSc and MBA students landed higher-level jobs within three months of graduation.
For women in business, here are 5 top tips for success:
- Own your USP
A UK NHS study concluded that ‘broad boards are better boards’, after uncovering significant evidence that diverse teams are more factually-focused and superior at analysing information. With this in mind, it is vital to understand what your universal selling point is, and use it to better represent you and those around you. Being your own unique self is vital. When leadership is more representative and diverse, people feel more appreciated and welcomed themselves.
“There are lots of beautiful opportunities to connect with people in a different way,” Doyin explains.
- Network with other women
A recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a strong network of fellow females provides crucial ‘gender-specific private information and support’ to women in business.
Khayale Agaeva, who travelled from Norway to study Cranfield’s Master’s in Management, agrees. During her time at Cranfield, she was vice president of Cranfield’s Women in Leadership Society, which supports female students to achieve their potential.
“It’s just as much about the community as the networking,” she explains.
- Ask questions
It is understandable to want to prove you can do things on your own without help from others – especially if you are one of few women in your workplace or position. However, this can cause more problems than solutions.
Khayale credits her willingness to ask for help and advice during her studies with allowing her to benefit from the knowledge of her more experienced peers.
“I was around MBA students who gave me a lot of valuable insights to being a woman in the workplace,” she said.
- Believe in yourself
As a woman in business, it is easy to feel like you are on the back foot – something that Khayale admits to feeling – but it is important to believe in your abilities.
“I always felt that I was lagging behind everyone else,” she said. “But I realised that everyone is just as confused.
Khayale’s Master’s in Management studies, and the added credibility that comes from having a course listed on her CV that was ranked first in the UK and 7th in the world by the Economist in 2017, has given her a new confidence.
“Now I feel that leadership comes naturally to me,” she explains. “I want to get to a stage where female CEOs are not a surprise.”
- But don’t be afraid to fail
There will be challenges but “it’s about trying and failing. You learn as you grow”, says Khayale.
She admits to struggling with communication skills, leading her to feel that she was falling behind, but credits her studies at Cranfield with providing a comfortable space in which she could make mistakes and learn from them.
A summer internship at London-based management consulting firm 4C Associates led to a full-time job after graduation.
“Negotiations, analytical skills, problem-solving skills: I use what I learned [at Cranfield] every day,” she says. “Cranfield really helped to shape me into the person I am and how I behave in the workplace.”
Article originally published by Business Because.