Does a B+ Make You Drop Out? Plus, Films for women (or not)

From ‘Inspiring Women, South Africa

How are your confidence, (aka bin-bag) levels today?

I use the word ‘today’ advisedly. It’s a recurring issue in my work with women. Confidence – it’s such a mercurial concept. One day we can be brim full of it, another we’re metaphorically wanting to hide in a cupboard with a big bin bag on our head. (Surely that’s not just me…?)

There are plethora of surveys saying we women lack confidence at work. While I don’t wholeheartedly subscribe to that view, I do think that the way we were socialised as young girls, (see this post, it’s still happening, heaven help us), the discrimination we face at work, the lack of appropriate female role models in the media, unconscious bias, all have a negative effect on our confidence, whether we like it or not.

I heard Harvard Economist Claudia Goldin talking on this very point on the radio recently. Claudia has dedicated her career to researching women’s changing roles in the US economy. Her studies range from how the rise of birth-control pills have altered women’s approaches to marriage and education, to why more women are working in full-time jobs past retirement age. In 1990 she became the first woman to achieve tenure at Harvard. This is what she observed about her female students (during a discussion on why men outnumber women greatly in economics). I paraphrase:

We have general course in Economics at Harvard that is very popular and taken by both female and male students. When the women get an A grade [in it] they tend to go on to study Economics in same numbers as the men. When they get an A minus it drops slightly, and when they are in the B grade category the numbers drop right down. They seem to feel they have to do everything really well to continue. The men do not have this attitude, they carry on regardless.

Why Do Women Opt out of Applying for Promotion?

I find it fascinating. I know it to be true from my coaching, and in all honesty, I know it has been true of me, too. Research tells us that women opt out of applying for promotion after a few setbacks and men generally keep on applying.

Why is that? Do we take it so much more personally? Are we not encouraged to continue by colleagues and mentors? Is it something to do with the observed differences in how men and women communicate, i.e. men are more competitive in their speech, women more inclusive (see this post for more on that)? Are we naturally lacking in competitiveness?

Whatever the reason, it’s not good for our careers. Being aware of it, recognising it, is my number one tip in addressing it. Is this something that applies to you? Have you rationalised not going for promotion, or increased responsibilities, for fear that you might be found wanting, that you might not be good enough, or that someone else will be much better qualified and you will be found out?(Check out this on Imposter syndrome).

My second tip is to try and identify that internal spam message and zap it before it strikes. The messages we give ourselves are hugely powerful. Listening to our internal dialogue is important. If it’s not helping us we can change it to something that does. Never, ever, tell yourself that you aren’t good enough. Be your own cheerleader!

Catch 22 for Women

Interestingly, I’ve just heard another discussion about gender equality and economics. Because there are so few women in senior roles in economics, in the interests of fairness and balance they have to sit on disproportionately more committees and conferences than their male counterparts. Inevitably this interferes with their ability to undertake research , publish papers etc, yet it seems, is never taken into account when they apply for promotion. They are judged by the same criteria as men. How do we address that one? We can’t complain about all male panels and then refuse to appear ourselves. I am always exhorting women to say yes to requests which increase their visibility and profile. Yet, because senior women are such a small pool, we are actually disadvantaging ourselves by attending but conversely helping other women by doing so. Catch 22?

Whatever your responses to the above, no one is ever going to care about your career a much as you, so take control, get a plan together, be prepared to jettison the plan when required, and be wonderful. The world needs more women running it!

Film Reviews

I haven’t suddenly launched into a new career as a film critic, it just happens that I have seen two films recently both featuring women as leads with lots of female involvement. One was lovely, leaving me with a warm glow and I heartily recommend it to you. The other wasn’t… and left with me with a clammy sweat of embarrassment, I had so wanted it to be better.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I read the book of this film soon after it was first published in 2008 (that’s a picture of my old copy above, it’s been revamped now). It was charming and has a poignant back story. The American author, Mary Ann Shaffer, became fascinated by Guernsey after being stranded there in the fog during a much longer journey; it became the subject of her one and only novel. Sadly, she became ill before it was completed and enlisted the help of her niece in finishing it, hence the two authors. She died in 2008, the year it was published, but not before knowing that her book was to be published in 13 countries across the world.

It’s set just after the second world war and tells the story of a London based writer and how she becomes involved with a literary society (book club) on Guernsey. Someone on the island has got a copy of a book she once owned (books were scarce like everything else on Guernsey during the German Occupation). It has an old address of the writer, Juliet, in it and he sends her a letter telling her about the society. Intrigued she decides to visit.

This is how The Hollywood Reporter described it:

Buoyed by a reliably appealing star turn from [Lily] James, this handsome tearjerker mostly sidesteps the tweeness of its title to become, somehow, both an old-fashioned romance and a detective story trumpeting gender equality.

Yes, that sums it up. It’s not the greatest film I’ve ever seen but I really enjoyed it. Penelope Wilton was magnificent in it, beautifully restrained, and it’s always good to see older actresses in film.

I Feel Pretty

Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty. Photograph: Allstar/Voltage Pictures

This film has already had something of a drubbing in the press for being anti women. Somehow that had managed to pass me by and I trotted off full of expectation from a film starring Amy Schumer, co written by a woman. I knew the basic plot (I’d seen the trailer) and I thought I was going to see a satire on how women are cajoled and bullied by the fashion industry to look and be a certain way, etc and that I’d be laughing my socks off. It is not satire but it so easily could have been.  It could have been utterly brilliant with slightly more sophisticated writing and a different ending (Oh the ending…)

Amy plays a character working for a glamorous make up company who is kept away out of sight in a downtown office managing the web site. Her main ambition is to become the receptionist (yes, we start with a woman in tech, rare enough in itself, who has the ambition to hand out bottles of chilled water to ‘hot’ men) in this uber cool up town office, despite the fact that she will earn less and feels she is far too ugly to get the job. (One of the annoying things among many annoying things, is that Schumer is portrayed as grossly fat when she is not and we are invited to laugh at her, and by extension all fat people. I shiver recalling it.) However, a bang to the head convinces her that she is gorgeous and brimful of new found confidence, (see there is a link) she marches forth to get the job.

I’ll say no more except that whoever put the trailer together did a marvellous job; I was fooled.

Diary Dates


I am running two more RenewYou days this year. The first is on June 12th and the second is on September 25th. The course has run all over the world, USA, South Africa, France to name but three, however these two are both Bristol based. I can run it in house if required. More details can be found here.

If you haven’t heard about RenewYou before (and I suppose it is possible although I do bang on about it a lot) please allow me to tell you more. I wrote RenewYou some years back because I wanted a course that made women feel more confident in their abilities, to take on the world, (or their bit of it) but that wasn’t like some of the other stuff out there. It had to make women feel really good about themselves and it had to boost their self belief without being, well, if I say ‘tree-huggy’ you know what I mean. Plus, it had to only last one day but have an impact for much longer. With huge pride and massive thanks to the hundreds of women who have participated in it, I can say that goal has been achieved. The first trial course went ‘live’ ten years ago and I still get emails from women who did those first ones telling me what a positive impact it made and continues to make, on their lives.

In brief, this is what we do: we look at your last 12 months and pull out all the good stuff from it, using the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. Then we do some work on you as you are now, not just a ‘strengths inventory’ type of thing but the whole of you, and then we plan your next 12 months so you leave with a plan of action tailored to you. We work as one group, individually, (space to just think) and in pairs and threes. The focus is on helping you be the best you can be. I usually say to walk out feeling taller than when you came in! But then I would because I have alway been short with very tall children so I may have a thing about it… It’s a serious course delivered in a light hearted way.

The day is supportive, warm and friendly. No role play at all. Everything is based on research or on my hundreds of years of experience in this field (I may exaggerate). Many women have gone off to seek and get promotion after doing this course and a few have changed career entirely. Some have made significant changes in their personal lives, and some have realised they are just fine and dandy as they are but have made conscious plans to maintain the status quo. Managers report back that they can tell who has done it because they are more motivated and focussed, and Great Ormond Street hospital said staff self reported a 40% increase in their confidence levels following it.

I hope that’s tempted you. Make an investment in you. RenewYou, a one day personal development course for women.


I also have a couple of coaching spaces available. Plus, I have a special offer on the MBTI during May! Check this offer out.

Your Privacy

In line with new UK legislation on data protection we are updating our practices and letting you know about it. You can read more here. In brief, if you’re happy to receive this weekly newsletter from me, do nothing. If not, well, I’ll have a minor crisis of confidence but you can, of course, unsubscribe at any time (see end of every newsletter). Your details are not sold on or shared with anyone and never have been. When you signed up you had what is called a ‘double opt in’ i.e. you got an email to check it was really you that subscribed. The newsletter is run by MailChimp and I do not personally hold any information on you. When you unsubscribe that it is it. Obviously, I will miss you if you go, but you can at any time!

Carry on being womanly wonderful, and I hope I get to meet a couple of you at the Bristol RenewYou in June!


Posted on May 9th, 2018 by

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