First published at www.altris.co.nz and reprinted by
Women in leadership, women on boards, gender balance in
management, all seem very topical at the moment, or perhaps just
reflective of the environment I am currently operating in? There is
certainly more discussion on the topic and recently I have been
asked more and more about the challenges of career progression for
professional mothers and the struggle with the juggle of the many
roles working mothers hold.
A consistent behaviour that I see, and hear about from others, is
the almost apologetic tone we women seem to adopt. "Sorry for not
being as prepared as I would like to be"; "sorry for not being
available Tuesday night"; "sorry to interrupt…" and so it goes
I was curious to see in some recent research that as women, if we
to put ourselves forward for a role, we need to check off 80-90% of
what's required for the position before we back ourselves to
actually apply. In general, when men go for the same role,
they will put themselves forward after checking off 40-50% of the
requirements, with a total belief that they can do the role (with
time). It seems that women mostly have to feel like they are
experts before they will put themselves into an environment.
As someone who works in the space of women in leadership and with
senior leadership teams across many industries, I am starting to
see this as a bigger issue. It has become more than simply
something that happens when women put themselves forward for
something. It seems we won't even ask for something (pay rise,
promotion, project etc) unless we truly believe we deserve it 150%
and even then it sometimes takes someone else to suggest the idea
before we will action it.
Is it self esteem? Do we feel that we owe the world something
since we try to be mothers and career women and look to perfect
both at the same time? Do we need to feel like we are perfecting
each role before we believe we are doing a 'good job' and providing
value? Whereas our male counterparts believe they are providing
huge value and contributing, when actually they are performing at
the same level.
This is not a criticism, just an observation, about how females
and males (in general) perceive the value they give in today's
organisations. Women can learn from the men around us to back
ourselves more and talk more positively and confidently about the
value we deliver in whatever role we have.
As a woman progressing through leadership, if you find yourself
apologising for your behaviour in any way, pause for a moment and
check in with yourself if an apologetic response or behaviour is
necessary. I believe it is possible to be specific and direct with
our actions and language while maintaining our own feminine style.
You just have to work out what that means for you.
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