Where are you right now in your work and your career? Are you in a place that feels satisfying and gives scope to your talents? Are you valued not just for your contributions but also for your potential? And do you feel your work is leading to a place that will satisfy your ambitions and help you make the difference you want to make in the world?
After all, you get to define what success means to you. You get to define what it means to rise. Maybe for you it’s moving to a higher, more lucrative position. Maybe it’s finding a wider playing field or getting more recognition for your work. Maybe you want more say in the direction your organization will take in the future. Perhaps you want to create a new business or product. Maybe you want to instill a spirit of joy among your collaborators, customers, and clients. Or you’re fired by the desire to help other women get ahead.
As noted in the previous chapter, these behaviors may have worked for you earlier in your career, which is why you may be tempted to cling to them. But as you move higher and assume more responsibility, what got you here—wherever you are now—can begin to work against you. This is true for men as well as women, but in our experience, the behaviors that undermine women are often different from the behaviors that undermine men.
Our focus on behaviors doesn’t mean we seek to blame women who have not risen as quickly as they would have liked or that we don’t appreciate the role external barriers play in keeping women stuck. Impenetrable old-boys’ networks, sexist bosses, men who seem incapable of listening to women or who claim credit for their ideas in meetings, career tracks that assume families do not exist, performance review criteria subtly designed to favor men, the unconscious
Although women have made extraordinary and rapid progress in nearly every sector over the last thirty years, workplace structures and expectations created with men in mind continue to frustrate many women’s talents and ambitions. So we repeat: we are not trying to gloss over or deny obstacles that we know are real. However, our primary focus in this book is not on identifying external barriers or providing road maps around them. It’s on helping you recognize the behaviors that get in your way as you seek to become more successful on your own terms.
After all, your behaviors lie within your control, whereas external forces like unconscious bias may not. If the executive your boss reports to only feels comfortable talking with men he meets on the golf course, trying to change that will be an exercise in frustration. If your company uses performance criteria that subtly penalize women, you can be a voice for pointing this out and work with HR to explore alternatives, but it’s difficult to persuade your company to immediately jettison how it evaluates performance.