• Organizational

Role Negotiation for Women

Ensuring women have equal access to the hot jobs that define leadership careers


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The BBC’s current 100 Women initiative is very welcome in providing valuable role models for aspirant women leaders and in highlighting societal changes, such as educating boys about gender balance. But, when it comes to ensuring men and women get an equal crack at the ‘hot jobs’ that can define their careers, it is important to focus on the practical steps that women and their organizations can take.

An important study from Catalyst in collaboration with Smith Executive Education for Women considers how role negotiation affects women’s career progression and offer some practical advice. The study found that both women and men ‘high potentials’ who reported greater success in role negotiation also:

  • Reported greater access to two important types of hot jobs: roles with P&L responsibility and projects with C-suite visibility
  • Saw themselves as more innovative in their work
  • Saw themselves as more likely to remain with their current organizations

BBC 100 Women points to the well documented tendency in men to believe they are more able than they actually are and to how women, on the other hand, tend to underestimate their abilities. Clearly this is a dynamic that plays badly in the area of role negotiation.

The ability of women to negotiate for hot jobs is not only about building their personal confidence and developing negotiation skills, it is also about organizations and managers of both sexes being aware of the subtle biases women face in the workplace. Effective role negotiation benefits employees in their pursuit of hot jobs, benefits managers who want to foster innovation in their teams, and benefits organizations that are increasingly worried about retaining top talent. At its best, role negotiation is a collaborative process between employees and their managers.

Smith Executive Education for Women, with its four decades of experience in the women’s leadership space, puts collaboration at the heart of its approach. Smith’s Leadership EcosystemSM not only emphasises empowering women to advance in their careers through skill development, but also the importance of engaging with the leaders of women leaders, and collaborating with organizations to help build their capacity for inclusiveness. Helping in the area of role negotiation is clearly a key element.


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