New Strategy for Women: Be Disruptive

By Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr:

Academic institutions are churning out ever-more female graduates. But the very skills that propel women to the top of the class in school are earning us middle-of the-pack marks in the workplace. Indeed, a recent study found that women account for 51.4% of middle managers in the U.S. but only 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEO’s. Based on our experience, the CEO statistics will continue to improve, but only incrementally, until women recognize that the boardroom is not the schoolroom. To be successful, we must now do the very thing we were always taught not to: be disruptive.

In school, being disruptive might get you sent to the principal’s office, but in business, disruption is a proven path to success, describing innovations that take root at the low end of the market, or create a new market, and then eventually upend an industry. If you play disruptively as you go into the workplace, you’ll be doing the upending.

Consider disrupting yourself when it comes to these five areas — areas where the skills you honed as a high-achieving student are likely doing you a disservice in your career:

1. Figure out how to challenge and influence authority.

2. Prepare, but also learn to improvise. 

3. Find effective forms of self-promotion.

4. Welcome a less proscribed, full of surprise, career path. 

5. Go for being respected, not just liked.

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