When it comes to women succeeding at work, the way they communicate can make or break an interview and determine how far they can climb the management ladder.
Nationally, gender inequality at the highest levels is still very real. Only 16.9 percent of board seats of Fortune 500 companies are held by women, according to 2013 data.
But it may be shifting with women younger than 30 out-earning their male peers, the Harvard Business Review reported.
Locally, the Women’s Resource Center is working to help women through coaching with interviews, résumés, promotions and getting back into the working world after time off.
This one-on-one coaching can help women prepare for interviews and build communication skills.
Ashley Dickson, the director of marketing and development for the center, also sees it as a way to build the overall local economy.
“Stronger business comes from stronger employees,” she said.
During interviews, in particular, women can level the playing field with men by talking quantifiable results from their previous jobs, refraining from moving nervously and projecting warmth, a study from the Kelly School Of Business found.
These are some of the skills that Deanne Idar, an executive leadership coach, focuses on with her clients, which include people working through the Women’s Resource Center.
Projecting warmth is also an important attribute that needs to come across in a cover letter, he said.
“If people feel like they can’t relate to you they won’t necessarily be giving you the interview,” Idar said.
While learning to be warm may be necessary for women, the same skill is not expected of men in general, which reveals a cultural bias.
For example, if a male leader in the workplace is not warm, it may not be negative. His peers and employees may see him as calculated and concise, Dickson said. But if a woman is not warm, then she can be seen as bossy and bad-tempered, she said. “I think it’s still a very different set of standards,” Dickson said.
Changing the way women are expected to act on a collective level takes raising the awareness of bias that may be deeply ingrained, Idar said.
But helping women succeed individually through coaching can be a step toward change for people of all educational backgrounds, she said.
There is also a need for this kind of coaching that Christy Schaerer, the director of programs at the Women’s Resource Center, sees regularly.
Even though the center provides templates for documents like résumés, some women need more help. “They still grasp for words to describe what they did,” she said.
Coaching through the resource center costs $150 for six sessions over three months. The center is also looking for businesses interested in sponsoring coaching.