News & Insight
June 2003

Women in Management: Nurturing Opportunities

Most women have an innate ability to nurture, and one way they do that is to accept what others will not. In the business world, this sometimes translates into women accepting -- and even volunteering for -- assignments that will do little to advance their careers.

Women in management shouldn't stifle their nurturing instincts; both corporate America and the world at large would be the worse for it if they did. Nor should women ever suppress the desire to be team players or show eagerness for work.

Instead, women should show judgment, discrimination and selectivity before taking on new assignments, and accept those that offer a strategic benefit to their careers. Maybe it's a step into a new area. Or an opportunity to do something for the sake of visibility only. Or a chance to learn a new business skill. No matter how small it is, a task that gives you exposure to top management or enables you to develop new skills is not insignificant.

Here are three recommendations for managing assignments that may come your way:

Evaluate strategically each opportunity to serve. It is essential to distinguish between insignificant tasks and significant tasks. Serving on an interdepartmental task force to revamp the corporate intranet may be an important task, but serving on a committee that will give you exposure to senior management could be a significant opportunity. Look at each potential assignment for the long-term benefits that it offers. If an assignment does not offer a strategic benefit …

Prepare to Say No. The key is not to use the word itself, but to articulate the business reasons why your skills would better serve the organization in a different capacity. Instead of saying, "I don't think I'm right for this job," suggest another task where your company would benefit from your experience (because you are "right" for any job). Also, read your boss's need to complete the task. Do something that your boss really needs and he or she becomes a little more obligated to you.

Create Your Own Opportunities. You might have to wait some time for strategic opportunities to arise. If that is the case, then create one for yourself. Start by meeting with your boss. Let him or her know of your interest in a specific area. Many times, the person who makes a suggestion gets to run with it -- or at least serves on the task force that will study the new idea. It could be the boldest step you take.

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