In my last post I quoted the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) ‘Gender and Ambition’, which has identified four main obstacles which hold women back at work:
- Low ambitions and expectations
- Lack of self belief and confidence
- A cautious approach to pursuing career opportunities
- A less than straightforward career path
I wrote about lack of ambition previously and now I’m turning my attention to lack of self belief and confidence. A lack of self belief and confidence is, apparently, a factor in preventing women reaching the top positions.
Do Women Lack Confidence?
Well, it’s a sweeping statement and clearly doesn’t apply to all women all of the time, but in all honesty I’d have to say so much of what I do when working with women is about building confidence. That’s not to say we women lack confidence in all areas but in the world of work we do sometimes waver and feel less confident than our skills and qualities merit. In fact, studies show we downplay our skills at work. While men overplay their strengths….
Why Women Lack Confidence?
I have come to believe that one of the reasons women admit to a lack of confidence (and I use that word advisedly as I suspect women are more honest in surveys!) in the professional field is because we are often working in an arena designed by men. Male behaviours which don’t come naturally to us are rewarded. Management courses, (certainly all the ones I did) don’t question the prevailing wisdom. That is certainly true of anyone in the old established professions like finance, banking, and government. We women had no role when these institutions were set up. And so we see women dropping out, and not just to have babies!
Changes have of course been made but by and large male norms still apply. Male behaviour is rewarded. Do you remember the shocking news a while back that some professional and ambitious women were actually taking testosterone to enable them to behave more like men?
Women and Men – Equal but Different
That made me weep. Why, in this day and age, the 21st century, do women still feel inadequate if they can’t behave like men?
There is a huge spectrum of behaviour which can be described as male and female and I don’t want to pigeon hole anyone into any stereotype of behaviour. But I most certainly don’t want to see women feeling they have to deny their femininity to achieve success. If you can’t be true to yourself how can you act with confidence? To be a successful woman you must be also be true to yourself.
I’ve written masses about this in the pages of this site; it’s my passion. For years I have been working with women to feel good about being themselves, to let that inner confidence out. I devour every bit of information I can get my hands about gender research, in order to make the point that the world needs both men and women performing to their best, and there is plenty of evidence that it improves the bottom line and improves service. And it’s just right, dammit!
Which is what Speak Up is about. I have taken all that information and acquired experience and turned it into a great course for women. We’ll look at how men behave (not disparagingly, that’s not what it’s about!) and together explore strategies for female success! And it will improve women’s confidence! It’s a leadership course for women but with a difference!
Share Your Thoughts
Do let me know what you think about this; I’d love to hear. Have you experienced times when you had to curb your natural instincts? Have you noticed this with male colleagues who also don’t apply to the macho stereotype? Do you think this is old hat, no longer an issue? (Younger women often do, although you only have to look at the few numbers of women on boards still to know something isn’t right…)
Tell me, share your stories!
And if you’d like to know more about Speak Up, click the link, or call me on 01761 438749
Photo Credit: Mattox
Posted on October 18th, 2011 by Jane