Breaking through the glass ceiling – how coaching can help women to boardroom success

by MSM Coaching on 31st October 2012

If you’re a woman in business with boardroom aspirations the latest figures on female directorships are not encouraging. Despite big strides in the equalisation of both opportunity and pay across the workplace, the number at the top of UK business is still embarrassingly small. In 2010 only 12.5% of directors of FTSE 100 companies were women (a modest increase from 9.4% in 2004), while the proportion on the boards of FTSE 250 companies was just 7.83%¹.

It’s estimated that it will take at least another 70 years to achieve a true gender-balance in the nation’s top boardrooms. Yet the business case for more women executives is self evident. With responsibility for more than two-thirds of household expenditure they can bring a diverse and constructive view of the company’s customers to the table. In times of recession they tend to be more risk averse too, with a sustainable approach to both borrowing and expenditure.

In the meantime progress is agonisingly slow thanks to the predominance (and prejudices) of the male ethos in business, the difficulties in achieving a satisfactory work-life balance and a corporate mentoring pipeline slanted in favour of men. But, significantly, women can be their own worst enemy with a tendency to undervalue their own skills, achievements and experiences. This translates into an epidemic of low self-confidence affecting, it’s claimed, more than 90% of female executives who regard this as their biggest obstacle to promotion.

While government huffs and puffs about how to improve prospects for female executives and managers generally, support is available at an individual level. Business coaching can do much to improve your chances of corporate success.

Your personal brand

A coach will hold up a mirror to your professional self and work on those aspects of your approach and attitude which will help you stand out from the crowd. Key to this is the development of your own personal brand, a clear professional identity that will highlight your own unique set of strengths and skills.

With your coach you can expect to build on the positive contribution you make in the workplace. Some of this will be second nature to you (a tendency to collaborate rather than compete, to listen more than talk); other aspects may require you to learn new behaviours to achieve greater effectiveness. Whatever the mix, the process will instil greater self-belief and confidence in your abilities and show how the person you are can complement modern business practice and thinking.

How will this be managed? By diligence and hard work undertaken in partnership with your coach using dedicated one-to-one sessions backed up with email and telephone support. You’ll set the agenda for this personal journey but it’s one you won’t be taking alone.

You’ll benefit from your coach’s own direct business experience and find the confidence to apply for your next step, or develop the management skills you need if you’ve taken it already. Progress, or the lack of it, will be monitored and assessed throughout giving you fresh insight and direction. Actions are formulated together but remain your responsibility to put into practice.

And because everything is directed towards what you want to achieve, you’ll be better equipped than before to break through your own glass ceiling.

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