At 26,000 feet on Mount Everest, climbers reach the “Death Zone” – a point at which oxygen levels become so low that a climber’s every breath is painful, making the rest of an already difficult journey even harder. Most climbers at this point strap on oxygen masks and tanks to trudge to the top. While a business career isn’t a life-or-death matter like a climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain, statistics show that women have a harder time reaching the upper echelons of companies than men. What if there was a way to make women’s journeys to the top less arduous? Forté is offering its own version of an “oxygen tank” to help women reach their career apex through its new professional development program, Rise – which provides peer support, expert advice, coaching, and accountability. Don’t wait until the C-suite to address challenges Ghita Filali, an executive leadership coach and consultant who is working with Forté to develop Rise, says that the need for the program became apparent as the number of women enrolled at Forté’s partner MBA programs was increasing annually, while at the same time Forté’s MBA Outcomes Research revealed that post-MBA women were less likely to be promoted and had fewer direct reports than men. Additionally, it showed a 20% pay gap between post-MBA men and women. “For 20 years, Forté has focused on building a pipeline of women interested in business leadership, but we now see an opportunity to be more supportive of women as they take those first few steps up the corporate ladder,” says Elissa Sangster, Forté CEO. Through Rise, Forté will help women become more aware of what to expect during their career journey, including the pace they should expect for advancement. While many companies offer coaching services to their top leaders, Filali says that Rise is unique in its mission to help post-MBA women earlier in their careers. “Why wait until they get to the C-suite? We want to give these women tools to advance, and we feel that working with them earlier in their careers is a more effective way to do that.” Rise will be different from other leadership development programs available through employers and other groups, said Amy Orlov, Vice President of Programs for Forté. Forté has the DNA, the network, and a long track record of success in helping women advance, and this program is a natural extension of Forté’s success in helping women on their journey to business leadership,” said Orlov. What made you successful until now won’t get you to the next stage Rise has multiple goals. The first is to help women understand their developmental gaps, which usually fall into one or more of three buckets: leading themselves, leading others, or leading business. Secondly, mapping a route to the next stage is not as simple as it sounds and requires an awareness of blind spots and a reframing of goals. “What made you successful until now will not get you to the next phase of your career,” Filali explains. Part of what will propel them, she adds, is “getting crystal clear on their leadership brand, their vision, and refining their authentic selves.” Because women face common obstacles in rising to positions of increased responsibilities, the program’s group-based approach allows participants to collaboratively transform their challenges into opportunities, while also leveraging relationships and networks as a path to success rather than going it alone. Get outfitted with the right climbing tools Rise’s inaugural 14-week pilot program — set to launch in late February 2022* — will include a cohort of 15 women, 5-10 years post-MBA on average. A second iteration will launch later in 2022. Combining three expert-led plenary sessions and one group coaching session per month, participants will meet in between sessions to hold each other accountable, share their challenges, and work together towards goals. Topics will include: Conducting leadership self-assessments. Expanding the leadership mindset. Developing executive presence. Managing up. Professional negotiating. Influencing and persuading teams, colleagues, and superiors. Building future-facing leadership vision, values, and brand. Gaining and leveraging a professional network, including sponsors. Creating a personal action plan to achieve goals. Orlov emphasizes that all aspects of Rise “seek to help women continue to climb the mountain by giving them the tools, the skills, and the networking to complete the journey.” Ready to Rise to the top? Make plans to attend a roundtable discussion about the program on Jan. 19. You can register here. For more information about Rise, or to inquire about participation in the inaugural class, email Amy Orlov. To learn even more, visit the program page on the Forté website. *The pilot program will be discounted.