THE BLOG
12/12/2013 11:46 am ET | Updated Feb 09, 2014

C-suite Doors Still Locked to Women: Time to Press in From the Outside While You Lean in From the Inside

"Progress in the F500 remains flat," "...no significant year-over-year uptick for the 8th straight year," and "... only 14.6% of Executive Officer positions were held by women--the 4th consecutive year of no year-over-year growth," reports Catalyst today.

Bottom line: no progress these days -- any days, it appears -- for corporate women. That would be none, nada, zilch. And no indicator there will be any, anytime soon.

Bottom line: it looks like it's time -- way past time -- for corporate women to deploy a new strategy.

Bottom line: time for corporate women to do like their political sisters do: run the boy's political playbook.

Looking for proof? Look no further. While politics is (also) still a man's world, women are breaking through that glass ceiling a lot faster than they are yours. For instance, 20 percent of the U.S. Senate is female. Any guess how long it will take for business women to achieve that percentage in the C-suite? Projecting, based on what Catalyst reports, it's decades.

Here are the political boys (and now girls) playbook rules I lay out in my speeches and book for would-be powerful women leaders, Every Day Is Election Day:

  • build a public leadership profile (run the soup kitchen, too),
  • amass public power in institutions that affect business bottom lines (say, boards and agencies that receive large corporate donations and have strong government ties),
  • ally yourself with powerful and influential politicians (yes women, as well as men), and
  • become a unique asset to organizations and communities your business respects and needs for its success. (Raise lots of money.)

So, yes, become a golfer to develop camaraderie with your office team, and, yes, "lean in" and ask for that raise you know you deserve because you worked so hard. But, understand that your corporate leadership will derive from your having power and influence in ways and places that matter to your company's decision makers, not (so much) from your camaraderie or diligence. (Otherwise, you'd be in that C-suite already.)

Bottom line: push from the outside, while you lean-in, inside.

Your ability to follow these rules with discipline and passion will also be a function of making sure you're mentally prepared to play with the big boys (who are occasionally big girls). Make sure you:

  • can handle being in the public eye, even in private situations,
  • confirm that your family will stick with you through thin (as well as thick),
  • will strike back with impunity, (if someone goes after you personally), and that you
  • can find joy and satisfaction in sometimes toxic environments.

Ring true? I thought so.

Bottom line: when you follow the same rules your successful political sisters follow, your corporate decision makers will take notice. Bottom line: nothing works better than pressure. Bottom line, and I repeat: press from the outside while you lean in inside.