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Women on the Verge: Three Practical Tips for Getting Ahead on Wall Street

iStock_000010363335XSmallBy Jordannah Elizabeth

We’ve all heard that women make up 54 percent of the workforce, but only 16 percent of senior management jobs. So, how do you move from a middle level position to leading the strategy and direction of the firm?

If you’re a woman on the verge of making a big move, or mulling it over, consider these practical tips for making a splash:

1. Harness the Power of Online Networking
It’s clear that any woman who is going after a high-powered position in any industry will need to have a strong resume and portfolio. While many focus on painstakingly compiling their credentials, career background, and accomplishments, spending weeks on application materials and making everything look as perfect as can be on paper, they’re forgetting one important thing: digital trumps paper.

Having a strong Linkedin profile and digital resume is of the utmost importance. More and more we’re hearing about crucial connections being made online and women landing their dream jobs as a result of creating a stellar LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t harnessed the power of online networking, you’re behind the curve.

2. Bring Your Authentic Self to the Interview
When interviewing for your seat at the table, chances are you’ll be speaking to a man. The hardest part is getting your foot in the door, but how the interview itself plays out is clearly of utmost importance. The basics we’ve all heard throughout our careers still apply: great posture and eye contact are crucial, but the most powerful thing you can do in your interview is be yourself.

It seems “authentic leadership” has become a buzz phrase for the business world, with great emphasis now being placed on being yourself and bringing your “whole self” to work. While it can read like meaningless jargon, being yourself during a job interview can go a long way – and it’s especially useful if the position you’re applying for is one where leadership is required.

Kevin Kruse, a “serial entrepreneur” and author of “Employee Engagement 2.0” recently explored the topic of authentic leadership for Forbes, outlining its most important tenants, which include being self-aware and genuine; being mission-driven and focused on results; leading with your heart and not just your mind; and focusing on the long-term. Keep these attributes in mind as you rise through the ranks.

3. Don’t Take It Personally
Earlier this year, financial analyst and business writer, Margo Epprecht, wrote, “Senior women are still in short supply in finance, and the industry suffers because of it. On Wall Street, to advance, women must fit into the male-dominated, hierarchical world of Wall Street—or leave.”

Women in all industries, but arguably more so in financial services, have to combat second generation gender bias. While those who came before us faced overt discrimination, women today face bias that is much more subtle, making it more difficult to identify.

Being passed over for a promotion, never being asked to join more dynamic teams doing robust work, failing to be included in networking opportunities – these things often happen to women who work in male-dominated industries, and you can’t take it personally.

Sometimes second generation gender bias is so covert it’s difficult to spot, but when you do, understand that it’s something deeply ingrained in corporate culture and it has nothing to do with your abilities, your work ethic, or your skills. There are companies that have taken pains with their culture, creating a workplace that is supportive of both genders and diversity in general, enabling women not just to survive, but to thrive.

Leading firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers are literally changing their corporate culture with initiatives like the Genesis Park program, designated for the firm’s top five percent of senior performers. Genesis Park is multi-faceted, but one of the most pivotal focuses of the program is authenticity. Discussions about being an “authentic” leader are happening in every industry, as mentioned previously, but what does it really mean and how does it combat second generation gender bias? Genesis Park attempts to teach senior leaders about the correlation between their own values and the role they play in leading with authenticity. Essentially, it’s about how tapping into your values personally and professionally can help you be a more authentic leader. If you work for a company that has value-based leadership and those values are aligned with yours, it’s a sure sign that your employer will be committed to your success.