Top Tips for Women Aspiring to Leadership Roles
Women account for almost 72% of the entire UK workforce, but many industries remain male-dominated. Take the engineering sector for example with only 14.5% female representation or transport and logistics with just 22% women workers. But there are some silver linings with a number of traditionally male-led industries starting to buck this trend. For instance, the 2020 global supply chain workforce comprised 41% women, an uptick on previous years.
If you’re a woman with leadership aspirations working in any of these industries, it can be difficult to forge your path – especially with limited role models. With this article, we aim to address this issue with numerous tips for aspiring female leaders working in the engineering, technical and manufacturing sectors.
Whether you’re looking to move from being a supply chain worker to a management position or from being an onsite worker to a site manager, we hope this leadership advice will help you get there.
1. Determine What You Want and Set Goals
Take some time to critically evaluate your leadership aspirations. Do you want to oversee a specific team or move into a strategic role? Do you understand all the duties involved with the position and are able to fully commit to the work and hours it requires?
Once you’ve determined where you want to go, brainstorm the steps to get there. Break it down into manageable goals, for instance undertaking a new certification or leadership management course. It could be even speaking to your manager about the option of job shadowing.
Make a plan and then regularly review your progress. If you’re struggling to formulate your career map, this is where a great mentor can help …
2. Get a Mentor
When it comes to female leadership in the workplace, getting a mentor appears to be an ‘across the board’ tip. The support they provide is invaluable – from advice about what to do when you hit an obstacle, to help you to honestly evaluate your progress towards your goals.
Your mentor can be any gender, someone at your current or former workplace, a professor from your university days or another leader in your field – the list is endless. Whomever you choose, it’s important the relationship is built on truth and trust, and they ideally know you as a person (i.e. your personality, strengths and weaknesses).
When choosing a mentor, think about someone who inspires you and shows either the technical or interpersonal skills you’d like to learn. Then, it’s simply a case of asking if they’d be willing to meet with you regularly to share their experiences and talk through any challenges you might be facing. You might also be to tap into structured schemes such as MentorSET.
3. Be Curious
The best way to learn quickly is to ask questions, and the more knowledge you have, the more respect you’ll gain. Beth Morgan is the founder and CEO of Boom!, a global community for women in the supply chain. She says that as it’s one of the most dynamic industries in the market, the ‘opportunities are almost endless.’ She advocates moving around and trying new things, particularly taking advantage of career rotations into other roles.
“It’s also one of the most open professions I’ve encountered in terms of people’s willingness to talk and share about their experiences, so network as much as you can and ask questions to find out what it’s really like and discover where your potential lies,” she says.
4. Develop Resilience
As a woman in a male-led field, you will likely encounter challenging interactions or feedback. How you deal with them is key and it comes down to developing resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity).
This article provides some useful ways to build up your resilience stores, one of which is to cultivate a positive mindset by focusing on the positive when you’re faced with a negative. One suggestion is to create an ‘accomplishments’ list. When someone makes you feel less than you are, refer back to it for a self-confidence boost.
5. Look to Others
Think about who you admire as a leader. What traits do they have in common? Answering this question will help you shape the type of leader you want to be and guide you towards developing a similar skillset. If you have leaders in your life you respect, consider reaching out and asking if they’d be happy to share their leadership advice.
6. Be Courageous
It’s easy to say safe and avoid risk for fear of making a mistake or harming your future leadership aspirations. But in life, there is no reward without some form of risk (ensuring it’s calculated of course!). So be brave. Try for that promotion, speak up at that meeting or sit down with your manager to discuss your leadership desires.
Often the hardest time to be courageous is when it’s most needed – when you’ve tried all you can at work, but things just aren’t getting better and it’s time to move on. Should you find yourself in this position, it’s good to know you can reach out for support from recruitment professionals, like us here at CV Consulting. We’d love to help you find an opportunity that is better suited and provides you with a more positive working experience.
There are always tasks or projects that others aren’t keen on performing. By volunteering, you show you’re willing to do what it takes to ensure team success, which is an attractive leadership trait.
The bonus? You have the opportunity to expand your skillset and add a few more accomplishments to your CV. You may also be able to expand your network by meeting people you wouldn’t generally interact with in your regular role.
8. Communicate Clearly With Honesty and Integrity
If you look up ‘best attributes for leaders’, communication often takes top billing. This is because being able to clearly articulate your leadership vision is essential for success.
There are ample opportunities to hone your communication style, from team discussions to speaking with clients to formal presentations. Aim for honesty, invite collaboration and take action on feedback.
9. Develop Your Network
One of the best ways to overcome feeling isolated as the only female (or one of a limited few) at work is to build your network. This can be a combination of reaching out to females in other departments within the business, as well as those in the virtual world.
From professional networking sites to specific support sites for women in STEM fields, it’s a great way to hear from other women experiencing the same issues as you, as well as gleaning some of their leadership tips. You can also stay on top of industry trends and best practices.
10. Champion Others
No one knows how hard it is to succeed in a male-dominated field better than another woman. If you see or hear of another woman doing great work in your industry, find ways to champion her – even if it’s just a congratulatory email.
Sadly, women often face criticism and competition from other women so by doing the opposite, you’ll do more for the cause of emerging female leaders than you can imagine.
11. Consider Being a Mentor
If you’re already a female leader in engineering, manufacturing or logistics, consider ‘paying it forward’ by mentoring another female in the industry or speaking to school groups about your experience.
Unfortunately, UK research shows girls drop out of STEM education at many points, despite performing better than their male counterparts in these subjects at school. Your voice could be responsible for one girl (or more) choosing to say enrolled and finish her degree. That’s certainly a powerful way to not only demonstrate leadership but boost the chances of emerging female leaders in the sector.
We hope these eleven pieces of advice will assist you in your aspirations to become a leader in your field. Working in Design, Engineering, Technical and Manufacturing recruitment, we’re committed to not only increasing the participation of women across these sectors but supporting those striving for leadership positions.
If you’re looking to grow your leadership career in any of these industries, please get in touch with one of our expert team. We’d love to help.