(This is a reprint of the blog I wrote for the January 11, 2016, Iowa Women Lead Change Mindful Monday blog.)

Seventy four percent of corporations say gender diversity is its number one priority, yet minimal progress has been made in changing the leadership reality for women. As Joan C. Williams, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, says: If we continue progressing at the same pace, it will take 250 years for men and women to achieve parity as CEOs. A study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In reports that only one third of the workforce believes gender diversity is a top issue for their direct manager.

Companies are beginning to realize their leadership development initiatives are missing the mark for women. Another factor holding women back is that many resist attending all-female leadership programs, arguing: “I’m competing with men as an equal. Why would I agree to separate myself?”

Let’s take a step back to observe this male/female issue in a different and historically earlier context. Do you remember when the medical research and treatment methodologies were based on studying only men? The medical communities presumed the results would translate to women. After all, both genders are part of the homo-sapiens species, aren’t they? Women suffered from the resulting healthcare treatment they received as doctors misdiagnosed—as well as overlooked—warning signs that were different in women than men.

A similar breakdown is occurring in business today as companies and leaders assume the mentoring/motivating attitudes they have used with male executives applies equally to female executives. This development approach has not been successful. Look at the statistics: Women make-up 52 percent of all professional-level positions, yet hold only 14.6 percent of the executive officers positions; they represent a mere 8.1 percent of top earners and are 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.  Do not let this female development gap handicap your career.

What can women do about it?

  • Acknowledgement. You cannot follow the same leadership script your male counterparts employ. It has not worked for you in the past nor is it a fruitful formula moving forward. Your success expands when you become aware of what is gaining recognition in your organization. Since leadership stems from authenticity, do not mimic others; rather translate these activities to match your unique personality.
  • Control Your Destiny. Owning your career is especially critical as 69 percent of human resource professionals, according to a Society of Human Resource Management report, do not believe they are developing their workforce to meet today’s business requirements. Your full-engagement is essential. Research reveals a strong female leadership presence has companies performing at its highest level. By taking the reins of your career, you will find an infusion of power and passion for your work. Not only will you discover possibilities opening in your career that were never an option before, but you will consistently add high-value to your company’s bottom line.

It is up to you to foster gender equality for yourself. It is not easy, yet it is rewarding both financially and for the future of your career. You will discover, as you adopt new elements to your job, a new excitement as you go to work. Do not let another year of opportunity pass you by as you wait for others to make career decisions for you.

So, did you start thinking a bit differently about your career and your responsibility to yourself? What are you planning on doing differently? If you are interested in discussing this topic as it relates to your career, know that I would love to hear your thoughts and share empower action steps of my own with you. If you are interested,  Click this link to schedule a 10-Minute session with me.

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