She doesn’t want gold-boxed Godiva chocolates; she doesn’t want another pretty scarf. All she wants for Christmas is that promotion. Sandra has been working for you for years now. She’s the one who turns in projects on time and knows what’s going on with your people. You’ve heard her ideas and you’ve thought about this… But you’re leaning toward Steve because, well, he just fits better. “He’s one of us,” you say.
Really. Steve has been analyzing sales and profit margins. He knows your customer. He stops by your office with great insights and keeps you up to speed. Steve-o, he’s a big Redskins fan, good to be around. He’s on his way to the top.
Sandra’s been in legal, handling tough cases. She’s always bent over her desk. Hard worker, mother. Very focused, kind of intense. But very good with her team, consistent. Best let her do her job; she’s good where she is.
Wait a minute. Does Sandra know about the position you’ve just decided Steve is ready for?
Actually, she does. She’s had her eye on that corner office for five years. She’s put together a folder on how she’s contributed to the company and her vision for the future. She’s excited. She knows she’ll make an excellent case for her promotion. She knows how hard she’s worked for it, and she knows how hard she’ll continue to work to keep it.
It’s all she wants for Christmas.
Unfortunately, Sandra doesn’t know she’s in the wrong lane. She was told legal was where she would excel – and she has. But legal isn’t P&L. No one told her that revenue is the lane to be in. That’s the lane that leads to the golf course, the steak house and the club. The men’s lane.
Steve knows this. When he started at the company, one of the guys took him aside and gave him helpful advice, how to succeed, how to get to the top.
Sandra was welcomed warmly, too. She was introduced to the women’s leadership group. She was told to network, get a mentor. So she did. She appreciated the support and advice. And she got to work. She took on as many cases as she could. She stayed late when she could, traded late nights with her husband who was also trying to advance at his job. But while he sometimes used his late nights to go out with the guys, she stayed in the office, determined to finish. “How’s he going to get his work done at the club?”
Well. We know this isn’t the picture for all women, nor all men. There are enlightened, progressive CEOs who sponsor women and show them the way. There are women in top positions who are showing the rest of us how to share leadership and thrive. But unfortunately this is still the exception, not the rule.
Even with all the evidence that gender balanced leadership brings higher profits and improves culture, there are many of us men who still need to be shown the way forward.
I’ve been in business over forty years, in senior positions in industry and the nonprofit world, and I’ve seen far too little progress in women’s advancement. Back in the day, women I worked with who were outright brilliant and talented were sidelined while we men got ahead. It wasn’t right. But no one was doing anything about it.
So I decided to do what I could. I brought Lisa with us when the guys went to entertain clients. I recommended Marianne to my CEO as an ideal candidate for the C-Suite. You know what he said to me? “We already have one.” That was it. One woman at the top was enough for him.
And now it’s 2015, and this is still happening. Women are still overlooked for promotion. I’ve heard it all. “She won’t want to leave her kids to travel.” “She’s not tough enough to handle that client.” And, “She doesn’t know the ropes yet.”
Well, here are three gifts you can give her this Christmas:
And next Christmas? Recognize her readiness for that promotion. It’s what she’s wanted, all along.
Want to receive news & updates about Women in Leadship? Join our mailing list:
John Keyser is the founder and CEO of Common Sense Leadership, a leadership consulting and coaching firm. He held senior leadership positions with Johnson & Higgins, Marsh & McLennan, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Georgetown University Medical Center. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. Learn more...