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Women now hold nearly 52 percent of professional-level jobs in the U.S. across all fields and outnumber men in earning college degrees, both undergraduate and advanced. In the top circles of leadership, however, women are rarely seen or heard. Among Fortune 500 companies, women claim about 25 percent of senior management positions and make up less than 5 percent of CEOs. What can women do to close the persistent power gap?
Grace Killelea, author of The Confidence Effect: Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success (Amacom, 2016), has this advice for women striving for success: “You must be good at what you do. You must exceed expectations. But competence is only half the equation.” She focuses on helping women develop the other half—the critical link between being highly capable of leadership and being recognized and rewarded for that capability.
Killelea, a veteran of corporate America who beat the odds to achieve executive status with two media giants, speaks from personal experience. For 13 years, she managed human resources for a large national retailer with 4,000 employees. She earned $58,000 a year and never once asked for a raise, promotion or title upgrade. Killelea thought that as long as she was “good,” she would be rewarded. But not only was she not rewarded, when she finally did ask to be promoted, she was told “no” without explanation or opportunity to discuss the reasons. The rejection was a turning point.
Her book aims to offer other women a step-by-step action plan grounded in building confidence in one’s unique skills and abilities. The path to what Killelea calls “standing up, standing out and taking charge” follows the “4 R’s of Success”:
Relationships. Women can’t go it alone and shouldn’t try. Relationships allow you to network in a way that accelerates both your personal and career goals.
Reputation. How you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. Because reputations, like respect, are earned, women must master the fine art of justified bragging, burnish their personal brand, take risks, muster the courage to show more of themselves at work and work to protect their good name.
Results. To believe in themselves, and allow others to believe in them, women must deliver results. “Confidence is like a mirror we hold up to reflect our accomplishments; the more we deliver, the more confidence we’ll have,” she writes.
Resilience. Women must have the big picture in mind to weather the storms, rise to the challenges, and avoid the potholes and outright roadblocks that are part of the ultimate journey to success. All of us will stumble and fail over our careers. Resilience is the ability to bounce back.
Killelea, @gracekillelea on Twitter, is CEO of the GKC Group. She served as senior vice president of talent at Comcast Cable Corp. and senior vice president of human resources at Lifetime Television.
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