Pivot Points and Male Allies: How Women Create Winning Career Paths
Key4Women recently spoke with highly acclaimed leadership trainer and executive coach Julie Kratz on promoting gender equality in the workplace and helping women work through their “what’s next?” moments. After nearly two decades of managing teams and producing results in corporate America, she experienced her own career “pivot point.” She now concentrates on helping women leaders create successful career strategies and working with organizations to develop women leaders and foster inclusiveness.
Julie holds an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and is a Certified Master Coach. She is the author of Pivot Point: How to Build a Winning Career Game Plan and ONE: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality. Recently, she led a successful Key4Women Leadership Coaching for Women Program in Indianapolis.
It’s a question countless women ask every day. “Many women reach a pivot point in their lives and they’re thinking about something new,” Julie said. “Maybe they want to start a business, consider a new position or change career directions. But doubts are holding them back. They worry that they’ve never done a particular job before, they won’t make enough money, or the learning curve will be too steep. They need to find the confidence to take the next step.”
Pivot Points and Mid-career Challenges
For many women, family considerations have a huge impact on their careers. A pivot point may be reached when the children enter school or leave the nest, giving a mother more flexibility in her daily schedule. And women are often in mid-career when this occurs.
“The workplace can be relatively gender neutral in the early career stages,” Julie noted. “By mid-career, however, upward mobility for women starts to slow. Many have families then, and they’re in different places in life than the men with whom they started. In addition, since leadership roles are dominated by men, the environment is less inclusive. Women frequently become discouraged.”
Research points to differences between men and women in their approaches to risk taking, differences that have their roots in our culture. “Women have a greater tendency to be risk averse and less confident about taking a leap into a new role,” said Julie. Studies show that men tend to apply for jobs if they have some of the qualifications. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to feel they must meet all of the job specifications before they bid for a position. There’s an outsized fear of failure that has nothing to do with actual competencies or potential.”
Career Planning Begins with Self-assessment
Julie’s executive coaching approach is designed to provide mid-career women with the tools needed to develop and implement actionable, winning career plans. “The planning centers around each person finding her authentic self,” she said. “We focus on identifying strengths and skills, validating these through 360-degree and DISC assessments. We catalogue likes and dislikes, and we explore each client’s life history as part of a self-examination process. More often than not, there’s an “a-ha” moment. The client discovers there’s something she’s always longed to do but had just not realized it. As we clarify aspirations, we define the steps that will be taken and benchmarks for measurement.”
Julie believes a career planning time horizon of three years is the perfect blend of strategic and tactical. “We can chunk out specific, tangible actions that lead to a one-year interim goal, then do the same for subsequent years,” she said. “There’s accountability and a well-defined roadmap for progress.”
The career planning program is flexible. “Clients may take a pause during the three- to six-month planning program and re-engage later,” said Julie. “We can also do the executive coaching remotely, which makes the logistics much easier.”
The Role of an Executive Coach
Julie makes a sharp distinction between what she does as an executive coach and a mentor. “I ask clients questions and provide guided self-discovery to help develop ideas and solutions,” she said. “A mentor is someone who’s done what you’re doing—a been-there-done-that professional—who gives advice and troubleshoots. The bottom line: An executive coach asks, a mentor tells.”
Julie has been where her clients are. “My pivot point came after 12 years in business when I decided that I wanted to dedicate my career to executive coaching for women, gender equality and workplace inclusiveness,” she said.
“Fortunately, I had a client who gave me a stable revenue base early on. For others, there may be a big up-front investment in a new venture and negative cash flow at the outset. In those situations, I tell women to test the waters, perhaps making it a side effort for a while, and to manage the uncertainties. The message is not to avoid risks but to have your eyes wide open.”