How women can break through the glass ceiling | Ep. 32

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There are more women being hired today for entry-level positions following college graduation; however, this trend isn't translating for more experienced women transitioning into executive positions. Why is that? How can women break the glass ceiling in corporate America? We talk with Nicole Mitchell with Honda Manufacturing of Indiana about this topic.

Show Notes:

Shane: Hey all of you ROI listeners out there… Before we start today’s show I wanted to briefly reflect on what we’ve noticed some of the most successful people do to help accelerate their lives to meet their goals. And what it comes down to is developing a vision and implementing a plan to make that happen. That’s what it comes down to… And in this episode of The ROI Podcast – we’re going to hear from someone who has some insight on how women can meet their professional management goals using the principle we discussed. Let’s get to the episode!

(The ROI Podcast Intro Music)

Shane: Hello everyone! We’re back with another episode of The ROI Podcast. I’m Shane Simmons recording solo today… I appreciate you listening to the podcast. We’ve been recording this podcast for about 8 months now – and we talk to a lot of managers, entrepreneurs and some of the greatest leaders around the country. And our guest today is going to talk about an issue we’ve dealt with as a society forever – and that’s the underrepresentation of women in executive level positions – and the trends we’re starting to see – but also how women can take action to help move them towards that direction.

Nicole: Men run the corporate world still - we see it in data, and it’s something that we can’t deny.

Shane: That was Nicole Mitchell. Nicole works at Honda within the Indiana Office of Inclusion and Diversity which works to develop inclusive strategies – well, I’ll let her explain it better.

Nicole: “Inspiring Inclusion” here at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, or HMIN, is our slogan to create an inclusive and engaging environment for our associates; that encompasses everything from what we’re doing externally in the community and working with different populations to 1) get people excited about the automotive industry and expose them to all the interesting and innovating things we’re doing here. Also internally, making sure we’re creating equitable opportunities for development and promotions on moving up so that we have that representation.

Shane: That’s important for many reasons – but Nicole brought up a statistic that many people may not realize – and that’s only 1 in 10 senior leaders is a woman. And according to a Mckinsey Study with Lean In, we’re actually seeing more females graduates being hired within entry level positions – around 57 percent – but that’s not translating to the executive positions. And asked her why that is… Is some of it sociological? Here what Nicole’s response.

Nicole: I think not as much as it used to, women do still take on quite a bit of the household chores. However, we are starting to see a little more balance in the younger generation of males taking on some of those activities as well. You’re seeing more households having two people working and bringing in income there, so we’re seeing more balance. I don’t think that it’s necessarily that, I think it’s opportunity and understanding how to navigate the workplace to position yourself to get opportunities and be thought of. I think that’s our biggest challenge still.

And that’s what Nicole is going to help our us understand – how can women, minorities, or anyone really, put themselves into position to succeed.

Nicole: One of the big things is [to] take a step back sometimes and watch people – I’m in a lot of meetings, and before I engage some individuals as mentors in formal and informal mentorships, I take a step back and watch how people interact and see where you can find a connection point; not everyone is going to be the best mentor for you. Once you take that in and see how people are interacting, it’s about not being afraid to go up and say something, like, “Hey, I saw how you handled that meeting, I’d love to sit down and pick your brain on what I could be doing to do better in meetings”. Think of a topic - I think the mistake people make with mentoring is they want someone to come in and fix all their problems. Sometimes it starts just with a simple question, “Can I pick your brain about x?”, and it really helps somebody start to focus on how they can assist you, and everybody always wants to help somebody else. One of the biggest things is being mindful of what you’re asking to start that mentoring partnership - that’s a really critical first step.

Shane: So step 1: Find mentors… Reach out to people you aspire to be like and pick their brain… Listen, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – often times people have already accomplished what you want to and they can help guide you… This is something that’s come up several times in our episodes and there’s good reasoning behind it. Ok, next piece of insight:

Nicole: interaction with your managers – sometimes we can be intimidated, and I have to remember that with some of our younger associates that they may not have had a ton of interaction with some our senior leadership. How do you make sure that you do have those interactions and you’re taking advantage of them? As much as we want to think that we’re hard workers and our hard work is going to get noticed, sometimes it’s also those relationships and networks. Being exposed to your managers, having interactions, even if it’s in a meeting by asking a question, those things really stand out. Those are two big [tips] that I would suggest people be mindful of and take a look at, and they’re pretty easy to start to implement today.

Shane: One of the points that Nicole brought up when it came to mentoring was that women shouldn’t only seek out other women to be their mentors. She says women need that balance and having a male mentor – especially one who has had success in your field – can be extremely valuable.

Nicole: But the thing that I think is great is when we can have men mentoring women, it helps break down barriers, and it really is a two-way street for learning, which excites me. Being able to share how to maneuver the workplace politics - as much as we don’t want to say they exist, they do – and men do a fabulous job on that. They can really help teach women and guide them on how to be successful, and not taking it away from who you are as a woman or as a leader, but help you understand how to leverage your strengths to be successful in a company; mentoring from the male perspective is crucial. I’ve had some fabulous mentors here, and throughout my career, that has gotten me to the place I am. Without them, I know I wouldn’t have understood how the world works with the different companies, so that’s been great. From the female, I think that they can also open the male’s eyes in those mentoring relationships on challenges that they might not have been aware of. We talked about the stat of men think we’re doing well with women in senior leadership, but being able to have two-way communication through mentoring, I really think that you can break down some of the barriers and misconceptions, and we can take steps to create that equitable environment.

Shane: Lastly – Nicole recommends Business Resource Groups within a company – so for example, Honda has what they call LAMP – or Leadership Advanced Mentorship Program. This particular program is a yearlong program and they take their members through different sectors of the company including meeting with executives to help them better grasp what it takes to be at the executive level.

Nicole: Business resource groups for companies, again, I truly believe that diversity and inclusion are two-way conversations, and having items like business resource groups and programs, like LAMP, allow us to have those two-way conversations a little more. We call them BRGs, business resource groups,

Nicole For instance, women have a tendency to say the success was a team success, which it was, but you played an integral role in the success of that team. Positioning that for yourself in your review process is an opportunity, and a good tip to get you to move forward into those manager roles. Business resource groups allow women to have some of the training and discussions around that, and a safe space to be able to acknowledge it and provide and create ways to overcome those things. BRGs are phenomenal assets to a company, and it also allows companies to ask a question like, “What are we missing?” If you have the viewpoint that women are not represented in management, versus what management may think, business resource groups are a great way to have that dialogue to say, “well here’s some things that we could do better” or you could communicate what’s happening in the environment a little more to make it more inclusive, interesting, and exciting for women.

(Closing Music)

Shane: So to wrap things up – you’ve got to take action on finding a mentor – findings someone who can help guide you through the challenges you’re going to face. Be active within your organization, and talk to your managers – ask them questions and really show them you’re interested in taking on advanced roles. And finally, if your organization has a resource group – utilize that. Build your network, create new experiences, and stay persistent!

(The ROI Podcast Music)

Closing Comments.

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