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CAREER VOICES STRATEGIES FOR OVERCOMING HURDLES TO LEADERSHIP SUCCESS A


Achieving leadership success is a challenge for almost everyone with their sights set on moving up the corporate ladder. However, women seeking to be top- notch leaders face unique barriers in the workplace and gender bias is one of those barriers.


That bias can come from superiors as well as co-workers, and it can also come from other women.


“When we talk about the barriers that prevent female leaders from getting to the top, we often ignore one uncomfortable truth: women often let their personal and generational biases prevent them from helping each other,” said Ted Imes, director of electronic systems talent acquisition for Northrop Grumman Corp.


He shares quotes from women on this subject such as: “I am rejected by women at the top. They don’t understand me and won’t take the time to get to know me. I am excluded from the good old boys network but disconnected from the people I thought I could count on — other women.”


“If you bring it up, women either deny it or they gloss right over it,” Imes said. “What cuts deepest is the lack of support they get from other women and each other.”


Shalani Gupta, Ph.D., principal microelectronics engineer at Northrop Grumman, recalled that early in her career she was made deputy to a woman and initially had a negative reaction to it.


“I had just been conditioned by all the things I’d heard over the years working in a technical environment with all these men around me,” said Gupta.


The relationship did not get off to a good start. The woman gave Gupta menial tasks — making copies, pasting things on the wall, making things “look pretty” — despite being competent and well paid to do more technical work. Gupta said she was concerned that her boss was setting a harmful precedent for the men to treat her the same way.


Gupta confronted her, told her that she wasn’t being used to her maximum potential. Fortunately for Gupta, the woman was open to her concerns and apologized. Gupta began receiving more challenging assignments,


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and eventually the manager asked the company’s vice president to make Gupta the lead on a project.


“I think as women when someone gives you a task you better deliver at your first chance because they are taking a risk in their mind,” she said. “If you fail, then it’s very hard to get that second opportunity.”


Gupta said she wasn’t sure why some women leaders treat others in this way, however, she suspects it has to do with their own experiences.


“I think women…have just been treated this way, just become so cold or hard. They do it subconsciously, do it without really thinking about it,” she said.


Gupta said those faced with such situations should go to their managers and ask for their support and


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