The No. 1 reason women are not getting promoted

Performance Figures

What are the key moves women should make in 2015 to advance their careers ? Moving outside their comfort zone ranks at the top of the list, according to a new poll.

Moving outside a comfort zone was by far the most widely given response (77.69 percent), followed by being more vocal/advocate for yourself (58.68 percent), and engage in more networking (45.45 percent), according to the poll from the Financial Women's Association.

Moving outside one's comfort zone has become a bigger issue today for two reasons: innovation and rapid change.

"Innovation is critical for organizations to succeed in unprecedented ways today," said Kathryn Mayer, author of "Collaborative Competition: A Women's Guide to Succeeding by Competing."

In other words, common business practices today are about trying new things simply to compete globally.

"The rate of change is happening so fast that everyone needs to keep learning and adapting just to keep their current jobs and advance to the next level," Mayer said.

Change and risk-taking don't always come naturally, but it is increasingly important in a world that's rapidly evolving and requires constant innovation from leaders and firms alike.

So why is breaking out of their comfort zones aspirational for women? What about women holds them back from moving out and into new arenas?

In a word: perfectionism. Research shows that women are more likely than men to be perfectionists . "This perfectionist behavior can hold women back from answering a question, applying for a new job, asking for a raise, until they're absolutely 100 percent sure we can predict the outcome," wrote Jessica Bennett, co-editor of the Lean In Foundation, in a commentary for Time .

A big step for women in 2015 will therefore be learning how to be more assertive and confident, and developing strategies to assuage aversion to risk.

The FWA survey also suggested that women need to advocate for themselves more and increase their use of networks and connections, separate but related career goals.

This isn't always easy. In her book "Lean In," Sheryl Sandberg cites studies underscoring the cost to women if they appear too ambitious.

Women can advocate for themselves in several ways, from leading a new initiative at their company, to authoring an article or research paper, and to convening top leaders in their industry to show the value of their expertise or network, and involving others in the process (I've written more on this in a LinkedIn blog post, My First 90 Days).

"Females have typically been brought up to be ladylike and well mannered, which can translate into passivity in new settings, while men are more likely to put themselves forward, approach people and join conversations without feeling judged," said Raleigh Mayer, executive coach and principal at Raleigh Mayer Consulting.

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This can make it challenging for women to feel comfortable taking workplace risks, but also poses an opportunity. Women are more likely to understand the nuances of communicating and engaging others effectively.

"Research shows that women have smaller, close-knit networks made up of people they like, which makes it more challenging for women to be visible," Mayer said. But women can leverage these support systems and "ask those that they trust to advocate for them."

Other moves women can make to advance themselves include raising their hand (taking on additional new responsibilities, for example) and getting a mentor.

Note: The FWA survey was conducted in February and asked respondents: What's the most important thing women can do to advance their careers in 2015?

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