Over the years, women have had to deal with many injustices in the workplace, from unequal pay, to sexism (both subtle and blatant), to sexual harassment. Many have faced discrimination, weren’t taken seriously for their ideas, or were passed over for promotions. In 2017, on average, a woman working full time earned 80.7 cents for every dollar earned by a man working full time. Additionally, women's median annual earnings were $9,909 less than men's, according to data from the US Census Bureau.1 In 2018, only 24 Fortune500 chief executives were women (less than 5 percent). 

While some smart business leaders are taking steps to deal with sexism issues and are offering women the same benefits and treatment that are afforded to their male counterparts, women must continue to work hard to achieve the same goals as men in the workplace.

Women hoping to advance to leadership positions should consider these strategies:

Be prepared and organized

Regardless of gender, managers appreciate when employees are prepared for all occasions – particularly meetings. Always do your best to be prepared for whatever the workday may bring. This means staying organized and informed. Make note of significant topics that need to be discussed, so when a meeting occurs, you can have input on the subject. Think of and research possible solutions to problems before they arise. This demonstrates that you take your job and the success of the company seriously, something that is certainly taken into account when promotions are being considered.

Speaking of promotions, being prepared for your evaluation can make all the difference in the world. Practice the things that you'll want to say to your reviewer about your work and your value to the company. Anticipate the things they'll be looking for about your performance and be ready to discuss them, and better yet, impress them.

Be prepared with a list of your accomplishments on specific projects or assignments. This is not the time to be shy, so make sure you spell out everything you have been working on since your last review, such as what project(s) you have taken the lead on or assisted with, how your department or the company as a whole has benefited, and what positive commendations or feedback you received. Give yourself all the credit that you deserve.

Stay on top of your options

Even if you like your workplace and hope to continue moving up the corporate ladder there, you should always keep your options open. You never know when something else might come along that you're qualified for, and that you'll like even more. There is something to be said about loyalty, but not if that loyalty is to the detriment of your own success. Keep an eye on job postings in your area. Check LinkedIn and other professional networks regularly to get a sense of the type of work that's available to you. Even if you are unsure about taking another job, it doesn't hurt to meet for an interview every now and then. That way, you can get a better sense of what's being offered, and practice your interviewing skills. If you are offered a job but elect to remain at your current position, you may be able to negotiate a promotion using the leverage that comes with another business wanting to hire you.

Never stop networking

On a similar note, you should always be networking with other professionals in your field because you never know where a connection might lead. The phrase, "It's not what you know, but who you know" is very true in today’s business world. That's not to underestimate the importance of knowledge, but an association or professional history with a person can open doors.

Online, make new connections and keep in contact with old ones. Just make sure to do so in an organic and appropriate way – nobody likes to be spammed by people looking to promote themselves. Find ways that you can help others. Endorse them for skills (a popular feature on LinkedIn). Post interesting content that they may like to share, and share their content that you find interesting. Facebook and Twitter also offer plenty of networking opportunities in the business world, but make sure that you present yourself in a professional manner.

As far as offline networking goes, try to make it to industry conferences whenever possible, and talk to people while you're there. Look for local events as well that may draw professionals with whom you'd want to do business. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce, a service group like Rotary or Soroptimist, or a professional group like NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners).

Don't be afraid to speak up

Many women don't feel like they have a voice at work. If that is your case, you need to find that voice, and that means not being afraid to speak up when you have something to say. If you're being interrupted by others in a meeting, don't concede to them, and make sure your ideas are heard. If you want to be involved with a certain project, don't be afraid to say so. You might be chosen because you spoke up.  Even if you are not chosen, showing an interest may impress management and help you the next time around.

When your boss praises something you've done, thank them for noticing and show that you are proud of your own work. This is a quality that people look for in leaders.

If you are looking to advance into a leadership position, remember to emulate the traits of a good leader: be prepared in your endeavors, assertive in your interactions, and confident in your strengths.

1. https://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3

2. http://fortune.com/2018/05/21/women-fortune-500-2018/

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC