adopting WE mindset 1-approvedDespite gender bias and imbalance, millions of women are forging successful leadership roles in finance and other industries. What is the mindset that sets them apart? Here’s what we have drawn from recent interviews with our women executives (WE):

    1. Find a sponsor, not a mentor. “Women look for mentors, while men find sponsors. A mentor gives advice, but a sponsor advocates for you. A sponsor will put their credibility on the line for you,” says Lori Massad, Alliance Bernstein’s Head of Human Capital and Chief Talent Officer. For women to advance their careers, it’s critical to aggressively seek out sponsors. “But in order to get someone to advocate for you, you have to do something for them.”


    1. Be open to male sponsors. In a male-dominated field like finance, there may not be other women around to coach you. A recent study shows women in top roles don’t always support qualified female peers. CEO of CDI Paulett Eberhart says that all of her coaches have been men. She advises women to “Look around your company, look at someone who you admire and build a relationship with them.” But it’s important also, to avoid “looking for people who look and act like you and have the same background.” This is important to remember, since it’s only natural to look toward those with whom we share common ground.


    1. Focus on your team, rather than on being likable. Ultimately, the question for any leader isn’t whether you are liked, but whether you care about the people in the organization. “Can you be a leader who creates an organization where other people can achieve their professional development goals?” says Sandy Urie, chairman and CEO of Cambridge Associates LLC. Many successful women focus on producing results with and for their teams. Who can deny a leader who sees the best in people and helps them get ahead while also moving the organization forward?


    1. Set priorities. Women are coming to understand that they can’t be perfect at work and at home. According to Michelle R. Seitz, CEO of William Blair Investment Management, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all, all of the time.” She says the key to managing work and home life is constant prioritizing. Your career has to slow down, or you have to outsource more, but it’s important to remember that you can’t outsource the relationship you have with your kids.”


    1. Take risks. Many women executives point to decisions they made that didn’t make sense to others, but that moved them closer to their goals. “I think you have to be willing to take some risks and gambles, and to maybe make an unpopular [organizational] decision because you really think it’s the right thing to do,” says Ms. Eberhart. The same is true for your personal career path. Taking chances like leaving a job without another one, or taking a step down may be worth doing to achieve long-term objectives.


  1. Promote yourself. Speaking and acting with confidence aren’t necessarily traits that come easily to women. Learning the techniques of direct speech – getting to a point succinctly and avoiding ending comments with the same intonation as questions – helps people to understand and respect what you are saying. Assert yourself by asking for assignments, promotions, and projects. “Don’t be afraid to go talk to other people in your company or in other companies, says Eberhart. “If they see you working hard and really trying, they want to help you and see you get ahead.”

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