Hypervisibility: Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Senior Leadership
Hypervisibility presents unique challenges for women and minorities in senior leadership roles. However, it also provides opportunities for harnessing the spotlight to build influence, demonstrate expertise, and drive change.
Many of us would likely agree with the metaphor of the workplace as a circus. Not least for our experience of walking the tightrope under the intense spotlight. A spotlight which both makes it harder to concentrate and makes mistakes more apparent. In this Corporate Big Top, hypervisibility is being the acrobat in red when everyone else is in blue. Regardless of how good you are at tumbling, jumping, and summersaults, someone will always describe you as the acrobat in red.
For women and minorities in senior leadership roles, hypervisibility presents unique challenges.
Many who experience it feel minimised by the amplification of their gender, colour, ethnicity, disability or sexuality. A frustrating focus that threatens to overshadow their unique skills and personalities.
Others may find the constant attention exhausting. Colleagues may serve hypervisibility as a compliment like "Oh, you're a great multitasker." or "I'm just not naturally empathic the way you are." It can be hard to accept "compliments" when they come with a side of expectation.
Hypervisibility can be traumatic. Colleagues ask people of colour to comment on behalf of their diaspora. This trauma is especially evident during social unrest or following traumatic events.
It is everyone's responsibility to recognise and minimise the effects of hypervisibility.
But, while it continues to be a problem, organisational minorities in senior leadership roles can also take advantage of the platform is affords them.
Standing out from the crowd can help you to build meaningful connections with colleagues at all levels of the organisation.
Consider using a networking strategy that accelerates relationships and alliances. Your network can open up opportunities to access resources, garner support, and create new possibilities that might otherwise be inaccessible.
The spotlight that comes with hypervisibility offers an invaluable opportunity to showcase knowledge, skills, and expertise.
A content and communication strategy will help broadcast your insights and perspectives. Consider both a company-wide audience and those you can reach through industry awards.
Driving Change and Innovation
Let the spotlight directed at you shine on the issues you care about.
This attention may help secure the necessary resources and support as you use your position to advocate for changes you believe in. Inspiring others to follow your lead is much easier when speaking from a platform.