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Are you equipped to break the glass ceiling?

5 women at NEW Executive Institute

Author Lori Brown (right) at the NEW Executive Institute 2017 in Amsterdam.

This spring, I had the privilege of attending a week-long leadership development experience with 16 amazing and talented women, part of my organization’s participation in the NEW Executive Institute.

In its second year, the NEW Executive Institute is designed to help emerging senior leaders better understand the success factors necessary to advance their careers. We learn to embrace our strengths and more effectively navigate our organizations to attain the next level of leadership. The end goal — transforming our workplace.

In our industry, women enter the workplace at relatively the same rate as men, yet only 3 to 5 percent make it to the C-suite. NEW Executive Institute is designed to help close the gap.

At the NEW Executive Institute, we learned the most significant career derailers are:

  • Problems with relationships
  • Difficulty changing or adapting (what got you here, won’t get you there)
  • Having too narrow a functional orientation
  • Failure to manage one’s career
  • Not effectively taking risks

Do any of these apply to you? I’d be lying if I said “No.”

Many women are more cautious about taking on that next assignment, wanting to ensure we are 100-percent ready first. Senior leaders don’t always provide the feedback we need to be successful (and we aren’t asking for that feedback, either). It’s so important to establish strategic networks to get accurate and helpful feedback.

Studies show that “women at the top” have these attributes:

  • A healthy relationship with ambition
  • Alignment of intellect and emotion
  • Ability and willingness to manage emotions
  • Comfort in ambiguity
  • Loyalty to the organization and key people
  • Are intentional in owning their career development

Halfway through the NEW Executive Institute course, I’ve already learned three valuable lessons:

How the world sees me and how to embrace my strengths.

During the first on-site meeting, our group wrote our “anthem” — two words that best articulate our leadership strengths. I am an Authentic Team-Builder. While I have opportunity areas that I’m working to strengthen, it’s great to own who I am and build from that solid foundation — and to surround myself with people whose strengths complement mine.

I often neglect to build my image internally.

Using the Performance, Image and Exposure framework, I realize I’ve been assuming my performance will build my image, but that’s not always the case. Working to get the right exposure for a challenging assignment can really stretch my thinking and build muscle for future roles. Generally speaking, men are much better at the “I” and “E” of PIE than women.

Being part of a community is powerful.

The very best part of this week was being part of the new community of 17 executive women who share similar stories, with diverse strengths. I agree with Alicia West, vice president of regional sales for Altria, who summed up the week this way, “I have learned to not let the fear of who I am get in the way of who I can be. Therefore, I will openly embrace my flaws and truly commit to being my best self.” Perfectly stated, Alicia!

As Ayn Rand once said, “The question isn’t who’s going to let (us); it’s who’s going to stop (us).”

Lori Brown is vice president, customer development for Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.