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Women Seeking the C-Suite

This week Gina Gondron talks about tools and rules that every female can embrace to better herself, not just personally but professionally.

Three years ago, as part of my MBA studies at the University of Georgia I wrote an Independent Study Paper titled “How Women Succeed in the Workplace”. In that paper I quoted a number of statistics regarding women in various professional realms, from those with an undergraduate degree to the number running Fortune 500 companies. I also interviewed several successful women that contributed to my career, including a fellow Frazier & Deeter employee who succeeded as a female partner and two female CFOs, one from an Atlanta based public company and another with a financial advisory firm. These women’s accomplishments made them role models for all women.

This year is the fifth anniversary of Frazier & Deeter’s (“F&D”) women’s program and one of our fall events cites statistics very much like the ones I included in my study. This made me wonder how the statistics I quoted have changed since then. Have women made a substantial leap in running large organizations in the past three years? Since three years is not a long amount of time, my initial reaction was that numbers would not change by much. The number of women CEOs has jumped from 18 in 2012 to 26 in 2015. That is a leap and one we should be proud of; but, for some reason I had false hope that we would be equal or greater than men. Women hold 20% of board seats among the Fortune 1000, which is also a move in the right direction. While we still have a ways to go for gender equality in the workplace, every little step counts and we are slowly getting there.

So what are the themes I learned from my grad school research about what women need to do to make it to the highest levels of leadership? Some of the ideas that came out of my research still stick with me today. They are tools and rules that every female can embrace to better herself, not just personally but professionally.

• Avoid the fear of failure – Perfectionist thinking is an unfortunate trait of women; possessing the ability to deal with disappointment and frustration while remaining calm in constant change has become a skill that leaders should learn to master.

• Projecting personal power – Personal power means exuding confidence, poise, and energy. These are some of the top requirements of senior positions especially for women. Men at top corporate levels tend to not possess these attributes although they are assertive and confident. Having a strong posture, speaking volume, and using distinct language assists in displaying personal power.

• Be politically savvy – Since relationships at work are equally instrumental to success as are accomplishments and hard work, it is important to build a relationship with colleagues and peers, especially those that will assist in building a career and are in a position to promote. Although politics can turn people off, it is important to think that political moves in the office place will help women grow and strive.

• Be assertive – Women should learn to be comfortable delivering bad news since such situations will almost always occur when at an executive level.

• Speak up – One of the most common reasons women do not move up in organizations is because management or their boss tend to think that they are content in their current role. This is due to the fact that women fail to tell people what they want. Even if performance is stellar, leaders may have no idea of the desire to possess a higher level position. The rule of speaking up tells women that in order to get where they want in their career, they must specifically voice their desires even if they are inherently known by others.
A number of reasons support the power of women in business, and statistics prove that their presence and power is slowly rising. Their ability to interact in social settings, embrace relationships with others (including supporting other women) and possessing a varying point of view than men in most situations supports their continued relevance in organizations.

Learn more about Frazier & Deeter’s Women Leadership Initiative.

About the Blogger

Gina Gondron is a Partner in Frazier & Deeter’s Process, Risk and Governance (PRG) practice. She focuses on information technology audit services to identify, assess, and report on IT governance, risks and controls of various clients. Gina has also performed numerous IT Assessments for audit clients and has provided knowledge of business processes related to IT in order to assist in creating risk assessment packages for clients.

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