For the first time, women may run much of the western world. It is an awesome sight to behold. But this does not mean presumed U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or the next British Prime Minister Theresa May are going to automatically help women advance in their careers.
Many people thought that the appointment of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States would help African Americans. Unfortunately, the black unemployment rate is still high, the poverty rate for African Americans has become worse and income inequality between black and white households is at its widest point in 25 years. And as evidenced by recent events, the civil unrest and violence over police shootings of black men is frighteningly high.
A single person cannot guarantee change for everyone. As more women assume leadership positions in government and the private sector, women cannot become complacent. Seeing women in leadership positions does not relieve you of the responsibility to lead your own career and life. You must still play the main role in your advancement, and here are three ways to do it: capitalize on the women’s movement, engage others in your quest and keep pushing your agenda.
1. Capitalize on the movement.
If there was ever a better time to act and move your career forward, it is now. Over the past couple of years, women’s leadership has increasingly gained interest and visibility. Tap into this energy, and use this to propel your actions and remain positive in your pursuits.
More women than ever are taking action to overcome their obstacles and advance. TV commentator Gretchen Carlson recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News and alleged that her contract was not renewed because she challenged the company’s unequal treatment of women. Knowing she was being paid less than her male co-stars, actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an open letter putting a spotlight on the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Lawrence, soon thereafter, asked and received more money than Chris Pratt to play a role in the science fiction movie Passengers. These women may not have been so vocal about their grievances and the media would not have so heavily covered their stories if there was little interest today in gender inequality and women’s leadership.
Use the context of today’s world to your advantage to advance your career. Speak-up about the things you deserve and the injustices against you. Now is the time when the world is ready to listen.
2. Engage with others.
While women in top government positions may be unable to help advance your career, you do not have to go it alone. There are other individuals and campaigns that can help you get to where you want to be. Sheryl Sandberg and LeanIn.org know that for women to succeed, they need to be supported. That is why they launched #LeanInTogether, a campaign focused on peer support.
Many initiatives are supporting women and their advancement. There are: global professional women’s networks like Ellevate and Levo League; campaigns to help increase the number of women on boards like the 30% Club; communities of men committed to gender equality like Catalyst’s Men Advocating Real Change (MARC); programs to help more women enter public service like the Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project; and the initiatives led by companies likeDeloitte, EY, Johnson & Johnson, PwC and Walmart that are committed to the advancement of women. This week, the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is launching the resource platform Grow Her Business for women entrepreneurs.
Identify the initiatives or groups that you want to engage with, contact them, and become an active participant. Engaging with others will allow you to develop the relationships that will help you advance.
3. Keep pushing your agenda.
Just because women may hold the highest offices does not mean the rest of the world will change their perspective on women’s careers and accept females as leaders. Every person has his or her own goals. Do not expect others, including other women, to have the same goals or to help you fulfill yours.
Stay focused, and keep working hard towards accomplishing your career goals whether that is being promoted, getting a raise, working in another country, changing careers or becoming a published author. You are your best advocate, and no one is better suited than you to achieve your goals.
If you have yet to identify your career goals, now is the time to do it. Start thinking about what you like and dislike doing, what your talents are, what information and skills you still need to learn, whom you admire, where you envision yourself in five or 10 years and how much you want to earn. Having a plan will help you to be able to start moving towards a fulfilling career and life.
It is exciting to see women leaders in government and business, but they do not hold the key to your advancement. It is up to you to propel yourself to where you want to go. Leverage the popularity of women’s leadership and stay focused on and engage with others to achieve your goals.
Avery Blank is a millennial strategist, lawyer, and women’s advocate who helps others to strategically position and advocate for themselves to achieve their individual and organization goals.