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13 December 2012
As a wife (to a proud Australian!) and mother of three, and the owner and manager of a business that identifies and secures talent for senior positions, I have often been asked about the barriers that can prevent women from achieving their career potential. So I have drawn on 12 years of headhunting experience and a lifetime of pursuing a career myself to write Careers Advice for Ambitious Women, which lists the ten things that I think women need to know if they want to navigate the (often unseen) obstacles on the way to the top.
One of these is the need to build social capital, the academic term for relationships. When I explain this to people they sometimes observe that life should be a meritocracy and people should be assessed on what they know rather than whom. But you need both to be good at your job and good at building relationships with the people who matter – both are necessary, but on their own, are not sufficient.
Another essential career skill that women sometimes find hard to develop is the art of saying ‘no’. We all only have 168 hours in the week and have to fit everything into it, which includes sleeping! It is important to learn to prioritise; the Olympics this year saw a large number of female gold medal winners who will have known exactly how to allocate those 168 hours in order to maximise the chance of success. Women who want to win career gold medals have to do that too.
One of the key skills we all need is improved financial literacy; being on top of our own finances will help our career, as readers of this website know. We all also will benefit from learning the language of the boardroom – the people at the top read the Australian Financial Review and talk about the issues they cover, so we should too.
There are lots of talented women out there who need encouragement or simply pointing in the right direction if they want to get to the top. My own experience of juggling everything is documented weekly in a column I write in the UK’s Financial Times, every weekend, under the pseudonym Mrs Moneypenny, in which I refer to my three sons as Cost centres #1, 2 and 3. http://www.ft.com/life-arts/mrs-moneypenny .
I have made lots of mistakes along the way – I have written the book to help others avoid them! We all need to support each other….as Madeleine Albright once said, there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
To purchase Mrs Moneypenny please click here.
By Heather McGregor