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One key reason women don’t get ahead in business

I was interviewed by Shado Twala on her SAfm show Otherwise a couple of weeks ago about my latest book, Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business.

Shado cut straight to the chase in her typical style, starting with the question, “We are born differently, male and female. Why do we want to do business like men?” Like many of us women in business, Shado wanted to find that one key reason women don’t get ahead in business.

This is such a great question, touching as it does on the particular approach I took in the book to the issue of women in the (still) male-dominated business sphere. Is there one key reason women don’t get ahead in business?

Here’s the thing: I don’t feel in any way that women need to imitate men. I don’t suggest that women should try to be more like men at all. In fact, I strongly believe that what women bring to the workplace is incredibly compelling.

My premise is not that women are in any way lacking. My point, rather, is that the business world was invented by men. The business world is run according to the rules created by men. If we as women can understand these rules, and importantly, learn to combine this knowledge with what we bring as women – qualities which are valued and necessary – I believe it will make us far more powerful in the workplace.

It is far too easy for people to assume that women don’t get ahead because of family responsibilities – that women are overlooked because they will not commit fully to the work at hand if they are a wife or a mother. Despite the popularity of this theory, it’s not the one key reason women don’t get ahead in business. Research has shown that this is not an inhibiting factor on the progress of women’s careers.

As a result of this incorrect assumption, workplace interventions which attempt to help women get ahead focus all too often on things such as power dressing, on work-life balance, on building assertiveness skills and other similar ’empowerment’ programs. These are not the key skills women lack to get ahead, and so these interventions are not yielding the hoped-for results.

So, Shado asks, why don’t we get ahead, then?

Listen up, women in business, because here comes the crunch.

Studies in the UK and US have identified a ‘missing 33% link’. In other words, the leadership capabilities of men and women are remarkably similar, but the difference between the sexes’ success in the workplace is determined by skills such as commercial acumen and analytical skills – skills which are neglected in the training of women in the workplace, training which too often focuses on the types of skills we mistakenly think women lack.

The conclusion? Women need to work on their strategic understanding of the business, and their financial and commercial acumen.

Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business is presented as nine key lessons that will help women in business overcome this missing 33% link. In Play to Win I cheer you on from the sidelines, helping you focus on what’s important and suggest ways you can arm yourself to play the game of business in such a way that you get ahead.

Listen to the full interview with Shado Twala here:


Get your copy of Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business here.