Are You the Invisible Woman at Work?

Ellevate Network
4 min readFeb 6, 2020

By: Ericka Spradley

I can remember my very first retail job. I was a part-time salesperson at a store called Lottie’s Shoes in Hampton, VA. I had no idea the role would position me for not only who I am today, but also for several years in leadership.

The reality is, I was a leader and demonstrated leadership before I was ever given the title. In my early 20s, I was hired as a full-time front-end associate for Sports Authority, and within a couple of years, I was responsible for the entire front-end team, which included cashiers, customer service team members, and cash office associates.

Who leads more than ten directs in their 20s without a college degree? That would be me! I hadn’t obtained my degree, yet I was rewarded the responsibility of leadership because I recognized that true leadership begins with leading yourself.

Although people tend to assume you have at least one direct report when you’re a leader, we can no longer afford to define leadership with a broad stroke as someone who has a team. There are plenty of women in individual contributor roles who are adding unprecedented value in the workplace. If that’s true for you, make it a priority to not only track your impact and be able to articulate it at any point in time, but to also not get so bogged down in the work that you become invisible.

What will drive your career forward as a woman who is destined to make PowHer Moves will be your ability to:

  • Own your success and no longer allow your gender to limit your view of what you can accomplish.
  • Believe in yourself, as well as your abilities, and be able to communicate them with confidence.
  • Know you’re meant to have a seat at the table.
  • Ask for what you deserve.

I’d like for you to consider seven things that will increase your visibility as you lead where you are.

1) Stop sitting on your ask.

This is a PowHer Principle I discuss in my book “Confident Career Woman: Ditch Perfection, Play Bigger and Make PowHer Moves.”

If you’re going to excel at work, you have to know your worth. Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder and present an opportunity to you. Raise your hand and raise your voice; ask for the stretch assignment, and by all means, understand what your value is in the marketplace.

If you’re unsure, Google “best salary websites” to begin your research. While 61% of women don’t feel confident asking for a raise, we can’t continue to blame employers for not compensating us fairly when we’re afraid to ask for more money and/or when we aren’t leveraging our career options.

[Related: The Subtle Ways Women Play Small at Work]

2) Manage your emotions.

The way you react to situations will have an impact on the way people perceive you. Identify and analyze your emotional responses so you can better manage them and use them to your advantage.

3) Regularly audit your skills.

Whether you’re looking to move into a position of leadership or you’re already in one, it’s important to understand the skills you need to carry out the role, your strengths, and the areas you need to improve or develop. Don’t just consider your current role — think about future moves, as well.

KPMG asked what training and development skills were needed to help move more women into leadership roles in the future. 57% of professional working women cited leadership training, 56% reported confidence building, 48% said decision-making, 47% stated networking, and 46% cited critical thinking. Consider the skills you have as well as the ones you will need along your leadership journey.

4) Communicate your ideas and perspectives with confidence.

Being confident is a trait that will be the key to your success as a leader. Confidence is like a muscle; it has to be exercised to remain strong and steady. Sit front-and-center at meetings and add your perspective to the discussion, then look for ways to shape the conversation.

[Related: Inspiration for the Timid: Confidence Does Not Equal Competence]

5) Ensure the feedback you receive isn’t fluff.

Developmental feedback men receive can be linked to specific business outcomes — and is actionable. If you’re not receiving the same level of feedback, say something.

6) Establish relationships and networks.

Actively connect with junior-level employees and senior leader mentors/sponsors. Then create networking opportunities regardless of level so you can lift as you climb. Your network isn’t just for you; it’s so that you can serve as a catalyst for growth for others, as well.

7) Play bigger.

Believe in yourself and your expertise. Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the hiring criteria, while women wait until we meet 100%. Abandon perfection; see opportunities everywhere, then seize them.

Your light is too bright to keep it hidden under the massive pressure of workplace demands. Get in the habit of flexing your leadership ability in such a way that visibility is no longer a challenge because people know who you are, know your value, and know your name.

[Related: Self-Promotion is Not Self-Serving; It’s a Service to Others]

Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman, which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. She is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger, and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit:

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