Climbing to the top

Climbing to the top

New Zealand prides itself on a host of firsts when it comes to the advancement of women in society. We were, after all, the first nation to give women the vote.

However, when it comes to making it to the top levels of the business world, our statistics are still poor.

“Women in New Zealand are still really under-represented at the senior levels in organisations,” says Wendy Courtney, a senior consultant with Hudson New Zealand talent management in Auckland. “Although women make up 47% of our workforce, only 19% are senior leaders and just 4% are represented at board level.”

So what can women do to break through the glass ceiling?

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Caroline Schischka, who works alongside Courtney as a consultant with Hudson, says there are a number of tools and experiences that can help women get to the top.

Firstly, Schischka suggests finding yourself a role model or two to help learn from the successes and career experiences of women who have found success at the highest levels.

And it’s not just about observing from afar. Establishing a career mentor can play an important role – and if you don’t have one, Schischka recommends proactively finding one.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says, “and also offer help the other way and mentor others. Women need to back themselves and to back other women.”

Networking with other women is another important factor that will help expand your personal network of contacts, she says, and initiatives such as Global Women’s BreakThrough Leaders Programme are a great example of the power that comes from linking women at the higher levels of business.

Another tip: brush up on your self-marketing skills and develop your personal ‘brand’. Social media channels can be a great way to communicate to the world about who you are and what you’re all about.

Schischka emphasises that employers, too, have a critical role to play. Organisations need to take the time to identify women’s leadership strengths and pinpoint their development needs if they’re going to help them reach the top. What motivates them in their career, what are their aspirations and what does the career plan look like that will take them on that journey?

“Organisations need to make efforts to identify and support high potential females,” Schischka says. “It’s all about putting objective measures in place to identify their strengths and development needs and then putting in place those development programmes that will support them.”

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