Advancing your career requires more than just hard work and achievement.  Career development can be affected by any number of factors, such as your communication skills, organizational turnover and even your industry’s growth prospects.

Obstacles on the career ladder

While most workers aspiring to the executive ranks share common challenges, women need to prevail beyond distinctive hurdles, including:

  • Cascading gender bias, which occurs when senior management’s opinion of female executives migrates through the organization, creating gaps in opportunities for development and promotion.
  • A double standard whereby characteristics admired in men may be less appreciated in women.  For instance, assertiveness in women may be perceived as pushy, and dedication may be viewed as workaholism.
  • Unwritten rules for advancement, which are behaviors that could influence upward mobility but may not be inherently obvious—like golf outings or other typically male-dominated activities.
  • Obtaining effective mentors, especially female mentors.


Steps to take charge

To overcome these obstacles, it’s important for you to take the initiative to engage in active and ongoing career planning while recognizing that advancement can be influenced by other people.  Make sure you cultivate support from peers, mentors, advisors, and advocates.

Make networking a priority and a habit.  Create visibility for yourself within the organization and within your industry. Take the tough jobs others avoid. Raise your hand to speak at an industry conference.  Work with your HR department to implement career support programs for women and minorities.


Finally, be prepared to change positions— or even organizations—if necessary for your own growth and advancement.