Emerging Leaders speak candidly about career barriers and opportunities

July 02, 20152 minute read

At the AWESOME Symposium, emerging leaders spoke candidly about some hurdles they are working to overcome. Some of the barriers, they revealed, are self-created, such as working so hard and so single-mindedly at their current job that they neglect setting goals, developing a career plan, and talking to leaders of their company about what direction they’d like to take.

Another challenge is one women have faced since they began working outside the home – and that is not only how to manage work and home life, but also how to convince their boss they can do it and not have people wrongly assume they’re no longer going to be fully engaged in their job.

One of the emerging leader panelists recalled saying to the other (all male) leaders in her company, “I’ll be right back,” when she had her first child. Yet, neither she nor the men she worked with had seen women do that before, so they had to both go through a learning process.

Panelists did agree that acceptance for working mothers is increasing, and they repeated what had been said earlier by senior women at the Symposium, “You need to bring your whole self to work, and smart companies are beginning to encourage that.”

(Article below presents results of a study showing children of working moms benefit.)

Technology has helped give women – and men who also have family obligations – more flexibility. Along with the flexibility to work from home when necessary, there also needs to be the attitude that your performance is what really counts. According to one panelist, “It’s most important leaders realize that even when you’ve stepped out of the office to take care of your family, you’ll still get the work done.”

The panelists referred to a comment made by Sandi Peterson, Group Worldwide Chairman of Johnson & Johnson in her earlier “Up Close Conversation, “ that maturity and autonomy are important qualities in a leader.

Panelists identified some of the skills they believe are most important to them as they advance their careers: time management, achieving a professional presence, developing analytical skills, being able to “look ahead and see around the corner.”

They pointed to the influence of sponsors and mentors in moving their careers forward.

“It’s on all of us to manage our careers, but our leaders can help us as well as knowing what our capabilities can, what are interests are and that’s what mentors and sponsors can help you find those opportunities or point you in those right directions.”

Having role models is also important – whether its learning from women approaches they’ve used to help manage family and work – or whether they demonstrate leadership skills, such as assertiveness and team building, and the panelists agreed their exposure to women in AWESOME is helping to address that need for role models.