How Can Innovation Help Women’s Careers?
by Tess Julian, CEO of Catalyst Exchange
Since we’ve launched Stepping Up people are asking us about the link between leadership for women and innovation, why are we focussing on this area?
The idea came when we observed that the majority of active Hargraves Institute members are women―about 70% of conference attendees for example, which suggests that women are interested in it.
But how can it actually help women develop their career?
In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg suggests that on the whole, and for complex reasons, women are less forthright in grasping opportunities than men. She argues that women need the chutzpah to put their hands up for high profile assignments, take the risk and give it a go.
Innovation projects are perfect because they provide a context that plays to women’s strengths and importantly they are linked to strategy, not operations. An innovation project, which is about realising a new vision or mission, is highly prominent and those who participate in innovation projects increase their visibility.
In a recent article published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Julia Baird argued that the biggest difference between men and women at work is confidence. The evidence suggests that women tend to underrate their talents, whereas men are inclined to overrate theirs. Getting a realistic handle on your strengths and weaknesses provides the evidence you need to talk positively about yourself, and to plan your professional development.
Innovation Mindset, the first session of the program, helps people gather evidence of creativity, people engagement, customer focus and collaboration―all highly valued attributes in a contemporary workplace, and attributes that women feel comfortable with.
This exercise not only helps in practical ways, it also shifts the participants into a discovery mode, focussing on potential and unleashing more creativity.
We now know that however brilliant, a single person can’t innovate alone, it’s definitely about exploration, teams and diversity. The perception is that women excel in a process that asks deep questions, gathers a multitude of views and unleashes creative solutions. Women tend also to be better at reading the emotional temperature in a team and our Team Health Check tool will help them make the best of this strength to create more effective teams.
Stepping Up will provide a safe forum for women to explore, share, learn and ask questions. They will get the practical advice they need to enhance their career and how they present themselves at work.