What makes a businesswoman successful?

A recent article on ‘Fostering Women Leaders’ by Lareina Yee in the McKinsey Quarterly stated that many women’s programs focus on convening, creating and broadening networks. Lareina acknowledged that while these are important investments, they are insufficient. Companies should also instill the capabilities women need to thrive. Some of the most important are resilience, grit, and confidence.  Perseverance through challenging circumstances can shape a woman’s ability to lead.

This is exactly why I created Behind Closed Doors; to improve women’s resilience, courage (grit) and confidence.  Also critical is engaging mentors and sponsors.

When thinking about what makes women successful in male dominated industries, in Executive and Board roles, it’s always around being confident, courageous, persistent, persevering and being resilient.

The trick is how to build all of the above.  And this is where having mentors and sponsors are good, but critical are programs, like Behind Closed Doors, that challenge the members to think differently, give them tools to cope with challenges/issues and roadblocks and get over them! i.e. Build resilience, become more courageous and therefore more confident.

While we know that having female role models in leadership roles makes a big difference to younger women, equally we need to see these women remain in top roles; in business, in Government Ministerial roles, in community.  That’s a real challenge in Australia … not just encouraging women to take on top roles but keeping them there.  That’s when the ‘game’ changes and where women need the above attributes and support structures to ensure we attain greater numbers of women leading and influencing decisions.

Sponsorship is an area where men can play a huge role. Male leaders can make a huge difference to help increase the number of talented women whether in their own organisations or externally.   Women in leadership positions also need to share their stories and to make themselves more visible role models for women and as Madeleine Abright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”


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