Why this book and why the title Sideways to the Top?

Posted in: Bloggery

There are millions of books in the market about women, leadership and careers.

According to Google and Amazon there are over 300,000,000 books on successful women leaders, and around 30,000 on women and careers. So why would we contribute to this huge collection?

The vast majority of books we have identified in this huge collection are written overseas and provide research on what works, with tips, lessons and advice, or they focus on how women manage work/home balance issues. Sideways To The Top on the other hand, does not focus on barriers to women’s professional advancement; rather it takes a more positive approach, describing what success looks like from the perspective of 11 extraordinary women leaders and how they achieved their success.

The insights and material from these conversations provides a different perspective to conventional thinking about breaking through the glass ceiling and generates some fresh thinking what success means and how it can be achieved. The success stories in the book provide encouragement and, we hope, inspiration to women who see little progress in the numbers of women in senior positions in many Australian corporations today.

We chose the title Sideways To The Top for a very specific reason. At Macfarlan Lane we believe that moving sideways can be an important strategy for creating a successful career.  It is true that many people have pursued careers using the traditional, linear career progression approach and done well. However more and more people are choosing to vary their careers and successfully take unconventional career paths to success, like the women profiled in Sideways to the Top. None of these women became successful through a series of linear promotions only, with a powerful person or two looking down and pulling selected individuals “up”. Instead, these
women took the initiative to shift industries, roles and geographic locations. Some started in government, then moved to the corporate world, started their own business, moved across into the not-for-profit sector. Some of these careers were well planned, while others were based on identifying and seizing opportunities as they arose.

Moving sideways, not just upwards, is very important to your career for several reasons.

  • First, you may gain broad experience across industry sectors or different parts of a business that you would not get through traditional promotional career ladders. This enhances your ability to empathise with different client or customer groups, to think strategically, solve problems and learn to lead in different situations.
  • You may also gain critical leadership and problem-solving skills that you would not acquire through traditional promotional paths in a narrow discipline.
  • You can develop insights and breadth of understanding that narrow, specialist career paths don’t always deliver.
  • Employers are increasingly looking for diversity of thinking and experience so breadth of experience opens many doors.
  • There also comes a stage in one’s career when it may be too late to move sideways and you may become vulnerable, or limited in choices. If your career has always been as a specialist, you are not as flexible or as eligible for moves to different responsibilities when an organisation downsizes, restructures, or roles disappear.  The same specialisation may also limit opportunities in finding another career in the broader business community.

The aim always is to always look sideways and to keep broadening your experience and capabilities

This month’s blog has been written by Norah Breekveldt, Director of Macfarlan Lane.