You are not busy, you are remarkable

Women in the corporate world need to banish the word ‘busy’ from their life and instead concentrate on being ‘remarkable’. Women need to change their mindset to secure the managerial positions currently occupied by males, according to the New Zealand head of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

The lack of Kiwi women in the highest echelons of business is a result of many factors, says general manager of GSK New Zealand, Anna Stove, and change is not occurring fast enough.

A recent CEO Pay Survey showed there are currently no women in charge of New Zealand’s top listed-companies, and a Human Rights Commission’s Tracking Equality at Work report found women in senior management positions in the private sector had declined from 31 percent in 2014 to 19 percent in 2015. Women’s representation on private sector boards sits at just 14 percent.

This, says Stove in a statement, is simply not good enough.

She says New Zealand is not alone with international research showing the trend towards women reaching the most senior corporate levels is only growing at one percent per annum. Another study of gender disparity in senior positions found that a man starting a career with a blue chip corporation is 4.5 times more likely to reach the executive committee than a woman.

Stove, who took the helm at GSK NZ May 2012 began her career as a nurse and has more than 25 years experience in leading and managing business within the pharmaceutical sector. She says the responsibility to change the situation lies with Kiwi women and their employers, with both needing to change some long-held perceptions in order to foster higher levels of achievement for women in the corporate world.

And there are key changes women can make to ensure they reach their goals and secure top-level jobs.

“While some women will already be doing these things, others may not realise that a subtle shift in their thought processes could help them achieve their career goals far more easily. It’s … learning how best to use their skills in the business world for a positive end result.”

Stove says while women are very good at creating social networks outside of work, often they don’t apply those same skills in the workplace.

“One of the keys to success in the corporate world is to form strong relationships and networks to ensure you are top of mind for a new role, promotion or training opportunity.”

Taking any networking opportunity that arises and ensuring they follow up connections with people after an event or meeting, is an easy way to expand their professional circle.

Employers also have a role to play and it’s essential they make sure networking opportunities are not limited to times or places that could exclude women.

“A day on the golf course or an evening cocktail party may suit some women, but it may not work for others. It’s the manager’s job to ensure their functions work for all their employees, regardless of their gender or commitments outside of the office.”

Stove says Kiwi businesswomen also tend to follow an international trend of only applying for promotions if they feel they meet 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the position, as opposed to men, who are happy to apply if they meet just 60 percent of the job requirements.

“Many women fail to apply for promotions or jobs at a higher level in another organisation because of this lack of confidence in their own ability to use the skills they have and learn the rest on the job.”

Stove says employers should also be aware of this potential obstacle and encourage high-performing women to apply if they see their confidence may be lacking.
For many women, juggling the various requirements of everyday life at home and the office can be overwhelming, but Stove says shifting your mindset could be as simple as eliminating one word.

“Women need to banish the word ‘busy’ from their life and instead concentrate on being ‘remarkable’.”

Stove says taking the emphasis off how much they need to do in a day and instead finding ways to do their best while balancing all facets of their life makes women feel more efficient and portrays a confidence in their abilities that will be respected by senior managers.

“Rather than trying to do everything women also need to empower their teams to do their jobs, and to stop feeling guilty about what they can’t fit into their day.

Employers have a large part to play in this, Stove believes. “There is subtle sexism and an unconscious advancement bias in many organisations, which is why managers need to be open-minded when it comes to finding alternative pathways that work for the company and star female employees.”

One of the biggest challenges facing Kiwi women is finding strong mentors and role models.

“With the lack of women in senior positions in this country, it can be tough to find someone who can help them plan their career. But it’s essential for women to find those who can share their knowledge and experience in order to reap the benefits of lessons learned along the way.

“Countless studies have shown that diversity helps not just develop a better culture, but also improves the bottom line, making it an increasingly essential part of corporate strategy for all Kiwi businesses.” 

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