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What women can do to climb the corporate ladder

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Get this: there are more professional working women than men in this country. Yet only 22% make it past middle management. What’s holding them back? To answer this question and help push women up the career ladder, Claire Wasserman of Ladies Get Paid, created this popular women-only platform to help push women up the corporate ladder. In less than two years, over 30,000 members in 60 countries have been crowdsourcing ways to ‘close the wage gap and fight for equal pay, one raise at a time.’

Women outnumber men at all levels of postsecondary education, according to a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “We are geared up to do very well in our careers… so it doesn’t make sense that there would be such a drop-off as we’re getting stuck in middle management,” says Wasserman.

Get out of your own way

You first need to recognize that you are deeply deserving, says Wasserman. Traveling to countless cities across the U.S. to empower women at career town hall events, Wasserman says an overwhelming number of women struggle with uncertainty and self-doubt, aka “the imposter syndrome.” This feeling that you’re a fraud, undermines your accomplishments and holds you back from taking risks.

Surprising research cited this year in the Harvard Business Review states that women do ask for a raise as often as men do, but are less likely to get them. Unfortunately, confidence can be a double-edged sword for a woman who isn’t afraid to speak up and take risks. Challenging the norm and speaking up for yourself can be perceived as aggressive and pushy — someone who’s boastful about their accomplishments and not a team player.

Get buy-in from management

Make a business case that your promotion is good for business. “The leadership gap is not going to close unless there is buy-in from management,” says Wasserman, citing how companies do better financially if you have diversity in leadership.

Companies can also invest in you through training and career development, paving a path that leads to promoting from within, especially since employee turnover is the highest it’s been in a decade and costs U.S. companies over $160 billion a year.

Gather evidence

Wasserman advises all women to set aside a “brag book” or a folder where you can include any quantifiable results of your work’s impact, as well as positive peer reviews from those you work with in all different levels within your organization. Your goal is to show that you’re able to do the work at the next level up, but that you’re also great to work with. Being surrounded by all this evidence can only help you advocate for yourself as you speak to all the ways you took the initiative to go above and beyond.

Last but not least, practice, practice, practice. As our esteemed founding father Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is one conversation where tone is everything. Presenting your pitch in a manner that is positive, creative and thoughtful takes some finessing and it helps to practice in front of friends and mentors you trust. Don’t have any mentors to turn to? Wasserman suggests accessing her network of unlimited mentors and guidance for free.

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