Trudy Delamare, September 2016


Aim

As part of my Coaching and Mentoring MA I completed research to find out how coaching can contribute to the career development and progression of women working at mid level. In particular, I wanted to develop and enhance a short coaching framework that would be affordable for organisations.

Who was involved?

Fifteen volunteers from a wide range of medium to large UK based organisations participated in two one hour telephone-coaching conversations, plus email support.

What did they value about the coaching experience?

For many, simply having time to pause and take stock of their career progress was a rare event, but there were six main themes.

  1. The flexible structure of the coaching process enabled a more personal and tailored approach.
  2. Participants valued the conversational style and opportunity to have a ‘dynamic discussion’ and to be stretched.
  3. A combination of support and challenge encouraged them to open up and see new possibilities.
  4. Defining small but practical action steps felt do-able and motivating. Hearing my perspectives as a coach.
  5. Drawing parallels with research on women was widely appreciated.

 

Overcoming barriers to career progression: key themes

As well as helping to enhance the coaching framework, participant feedback also showed how coaching can help women to explore barriers to their career progression. For example:

Broadening my mindset Seeing the bigger picture and seeing a wider range of possibilities. Getting different perspectives and insights
Self-promotion Feeling confident about promoting myself without feeling “pushy”; having confidence to ask for what I3need.
Knowing I am not alone Hearing that other women face the same issues and experiences really helps.
Managing my career Learning to manage my career like a project, and making a mental shift in challenging my career assumptions.
Time to think An opportunity to take stock and time for deeper reflection.  Surfacing underlying issues to make them more transparent.
Taking practical steps Seeing the value of small steps, coming up with practical ideas and getting clarity about how I view my situation.
A “kick start” The push I needed to get out of a rut, motivation and encouragement to get started and take action.
A career language Having a language to help with career conversations; better prepared to have career conversations.

 

Conclusions

Mid-level women leaders incorporate a wide age range, and often juggle work with family commitments. Many seek flexible working patterns and perceive that more senior roles required a fulltime commitment. There is a common frustration in not knowing what steps to take to get promoted or get noticed. Coaching can give women a confidence boost as well as practical advice.

  • Coaching does not have to be a lengthy and costly exercise. For organisations facing financial constraints this opens up the possibility of bringing coaching to a much wider group of women who are keen to develop.
  • There are a complex range of cultural and societal influences presenting barriers for women’s career development. Coaching cannot resolve all those issues but it can show women how to actively manage their career like any other project.
  • We would argue that many women have different career support needs to men and that this has important implications for organisations. For a whole host of reasons men are often better at networking, self-promoting and taking risks.
  • Women like to hear what other women have done to develop their careers and to know that the doubts they feel are universal.

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