Women in Management

by Rita Bailey

Senior manager - strategy

You are well established at this senior level. You recognise that there are bigger gains to be made, though with larger risks and challenges to face, at the directorship level you are now aiming for. It’s already well known that there are only three per cent of women on boards. Far too few women get to the top.

As a senior manager, you are already operating at senior levels, so if your sights are set on directorship, then you know it’s an opportunity to contribute at an even higher level and to the wider organisation. Directorship involves risks and carries broad legal responsibilities. If you are already working in the organisation in which you are seeking a directorship, this has given you an opportunity to establish your credentials, engaging with team members, shareholders and directors. It also means you are able to provide instant value to the organisation.

If you are seeking directorship externally, then the following tips still apply.

Planning your strategy

Imagine this is a business proposition for your career. As with anything else, you need a plan to ensure you get where you want to go. So decide

  • What you want
  • Where you want to arrive
  • The time frame within which you are willing to work, say a six-to-twelve month period.

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.

Erica Jong

A plan developed on the basis of your current skills and experience is a good starting point. This will help you to focus on the networks and connections you already have as well as identify the new connections you will need to make over the months. A plan can also enable you to identify key areas where you could add value immediately.

Planning your strategy will give you a clear focus and keep you on track, though you should remain mindful of other opportunities that can emerge as you build new connections.

Does your plan include any stretch goals for you? You need to allow your plan to stretch you to reach your new goals and avoid creating any barriers to what you are capable of.


Spend some time researching. Time spent talking to key people is not time wasted, as their input will help prioritise your moves, as well as giving focus to your action. The important part of the process is that you will be building up a clear picture, showing how you will add value to the strategic work of the organisation and preparing yourself for the questions that will be asked about your suitability. With modern technology and social media providing rich sources of information, coupled with your connections within the organisation and outside it, you are making yourself ready to seek an executive or non-executive position. You may need to be creative with your research as you work through your connections to ensure you obtain the information you need.

Your track record

It will also be useful to draw up a CV, including significant results you have achieved. Your CV is not just a job history; it is a powerful marketing tool. Perhaps you have operational management experience or profit-and-loss accountability. Maybe by now you have managed multi-million pound budgets or contracts, account-managed blue chip clients, and led large teams. These are just a few examples of the types of experience that can be highlighted to strengthen your CV and give credibility to your application.

Always think of creating a trail of the significant results which have built your reputation. Sometimes, women can undersell their capabilities and achievements; if you tend to do this, work with a friend, your boss, a colleague or a coach to help you draw out the important results accomplished by you and a team led by you.

Make a list of the accomplishments and results that can help you position yourself strategically. Ask yourself whether your current track record reflects your capacity for top-level strategic thinking and your ability to achieve results.

Reputation and PR

You will be using a reputation that you have built over the months and years. Our reputations are our constant companions and can precede us. A lot of emphasis has been placed on creating and managing your brand (see Personal Brand) – in other words, your reputation, your profile and everything that is associated with you. The key factor to remember is that it is your accomplishments, your results and how you interact with people that create their impressions of you. So if you want to create a lasting and good impression, this emerges from what you say and do. People need to know what you stand for and your sticking point.

Take some time to consider this: do you know what your teams, bosses, peers, clients and suppliers think of you? It’s important to form a clear picture of the impression others have of you, because you may need to communicate with certain people to change their perceptions.

If you know what you are known for, admired for and trusted for, that’s great; if not, it’s worth seeking feedback from people who work with you.

Your self-audit

Your view of yourself, your skills, attributes and experience should be tested by asking a trusted colleague, your current or previous boss, or a coach.

Their views and assistance in supporting you in this review of you and your skills will provide you with invaluable Feedback that will enable you to capitalise on what you have as well as identify what you may need to do next.

You can solicit feedback from people you work with or, if you have experienced 360 feedbacks, then now’s the time to revisit the report and feedback you were given by the facilitator. Be mindful of overly critical comments or generalised comments that don’t add value to your review. Do your best to remain objective; if areas are highlighted for improvement, you can address these while still implementing your plan. No-one is perfect!