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I am a woman who keeps being overlooked for senior leadership roles and fear innate sexism is at work and that managers simply prefer men with swagger. How do I convince them to take me seriously?

Eugene Burke, chief science and analytics officer at CEB, a global advisory company, says:

Men outnumber women in leadership positions by three to one globally. Despite there being little difference in leadership potential between genders, research shows women’s representation in roles diminishes significantly as responsibility increases.

While few organisations set out to discriminate against women, your issue raises deep gender biases that are putting women off.

Being turned down for promotion opportunities is always disappointing; you now need to seek feedback from the business on why you were unsuccessful.

Approach your human resources (HR) team for information on the competencies and experience required in the role, the criteria against which candidates are measured and the decision-making process for selection.

Ask, too, about the policies and procedures for gender equality in the organisation. Armed with all this information, you need to reflect on how you stack up against the criteria.

You should ask your boss to provide evidence-based and honest feedback on areas where you fell short. This should be discussed face-to-face. You should identify the three key areas of development that would improve your effectiveness in your role.

This is the platform for you to share your aspirations for your career. If you were overlooked because you had not expressed enough interest in the role, then you need to be more forward about your goals.

It would be worth completing a 360-degree review to obtain others’ views on your strengths and what you need to develop. Also, seek out a senior female leader as a mentor.

Based on the evidence gathered, if you feel the selection decision was directly linked to your gender, you need to be willing to share your experience of sexism and raise your concern.

If you feel uncomfortable addressing it with your boss or HR, you will need to consider other ways. You could ask a trusted senior adviser for guidance, or raise the problem in writing as part of your response to the company’s engagement survey. A confidential inquiry with the corporate compliance department is also an option.

Send your queries to Janina Conboye at workplace.questions@ft.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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