Confidence is more crucial to women’s career success and ambitions than many people realise. Earlier this year the Institute of Leadership and Management published a report on the career ambitions of women. It found that women set their ambitions far lower than men’s right from the start of their working life! Career success for women was inextricably bound up with their levels of confidence.
Nearly 3,000 managers were surveyed for the report which revealed that more than a third of women (36%) felt that their gender hindered their career progression. This figure rises to 44% among women over 45.
The report asked respondents about the management role they hoped to have at various stages in their working life: after the first 10 years, 10 years from now, and by the end of their career.
Women’s Career Success
Alarmingly, at every single step the career ambitions of women lagged behind their male counterparts. Significantly, the research revealed that female managers have far lower levels of self-confidence than men, but much higher levels of self-doubt.
In fact, men are more personally confident than women across all age groups. Some 70% of men have high, or fairly high, levels of self-confidence, compared with 50% of women. Half of the women managers admit to feelings of self-doubt, compared with only 31% of men. A strong link between confidence levels and ambition has been identified by the research.
Add to this recent research by the LSE (London School of Economics) suggesting that over 70% of women aged between 16 and 24 have ambitions to set up their own businesses – a trend towards entrepreneurialism also identified by the ILM survey – and a picture emerges of more women seeking to advance their careers on their own terms, rather than on those of patriarchially structured organisations. Women want to make their own rules.
Penny de Valk, the ILM’s chief executive, says the research lifts the lid on some of the more complex dynamics of what is, in many cases, still a male-centric work culture:
“Women feel a greater sense of risk around promotion, which leads to a more cautious approach to career opportunities. And yet we also found that younger women in particular are more likely to aspire to run their own business – they are not adjusting their expectations to the same degree when it comes to the risk of starting their own ventures.“
De Valk says it is crucial that employers who are serious about gender diversity take steps to find ways to nurture women’s ambitions. “This means developing transparent talent management systems and introducing leadership career models and development approaches that flex to meet individuals’ differing needs” .
“Coaching and mentoring, in particular, have an invaluable role to play. We know that gender diversity drives organisations’ financial performance. Business leaders should need no encouragement to ensure their most talented employees move into leadership roles, regardless of their gender.”
What Can Women Do to Have Career Success?
- Find a role model. Preferably one that is able to adopt a more feminine approach with business success and not one who has adopted male ways of behaving. If you check out this interview with Sam Roddick you’ll see that she has managed to run her business in her own inimitable style -with great success! Your role model need not be someone you know personally but could be someone in the public eye that you can easily find some information on.
- Actively plan your career (and then upscale a level or two!). If you don’t set yourself a target to reach how will you know how you’re doing? You may not know the exact job you want but you know the level and type. Seriously think about it. What position do you want to have at the end of 18 months, three years and in ten years? If you want children you need to plan this in too. Don’t wait until the broodiness kicks in but think about how you’ll manage that part of your life too. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of the 20 first consultancy says: pay attention to the pacing of your career. Look particularly at your thirties, preferably before you get there. It’s a challenging time so discuss it and plan for it. Use a coach, listen to older women and learn from them So may women drop out in their thirties which is a huge loss to business. Think about it in advance. And don’t worry about getting older! Getting older is great, possibly the best time of your life as your wisdom and experience grows.
- Learn how to speak male. Note I am not saying behave like a man, but make a point of understanding how men communicate at work. Men and women talk differently. New research is appearing all the time but a common theme is that women are disadvantaged at work by their communication style. If this is a problem get advice, get a coach, go on a course, but make sure you understand the differences and why women can be at a disadvantage. And then once you’re CEO you can change the culture!
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Photo Credit: Coloniara
Posted on June 23rd, 2011 by Jane