Confidence is a double edged sword when it comes to women vying for leadership, either they are judged as too brash or self -promoting or they are considered low on confidence and lacking in assertiveness. Often, women themselves perpetuate this anomaly by their own tendency to feel less self-assured at work, as pointed out by various research reviews and findings.
A 2011 ambition and gender report study showed that only 50 percent of women reported high levels of confidence compared to 70 percent of males reporting high or very high confidence. This confidence dilemma was deemed to directly impact and adversely affect women’s’ career growth as women were found to be more cautious while applying for jobs and promotions.
Section 1 of the Book is called “ Make Yourself Visible”
Women are not noticed for their accomplishments due to 4 behaviors which have been identified namely
- Being overly modest – women avoid taking public credit for their work and therefore are rarely acknowledged by their bosses or colleagues for their achievements.
- Not asking – Women find it personally risky to ask for assignments or fail to apply timely , and thus lose out on valuable career advancement opportunities.
- Blending In – Women tend to avoid striking out and shun drawing attention to themselves. . This directly, impacts their visibility and prospects of promotions.
- Remaining silent – Having a valid point of view in group discussions is vital for advancement . Yet, many women hesitate to air their views, in important meetings, demonstrating a lack of confidence .
Women tend to pay it safe and follow the and norms strictly as though still at school. For career advancement and success, disruption and the ability to think out of the box are crucial. This attitude needs to change, if women want to break glass ceilings. Challenging, improvising , finding effective forms of personal branding and advocating own ideas are important strategies for workplace success.
Women often feel that they will be viewed as a “craven self-promoter” and avoid highlighting their contributions. To grow and thrive at workplaces, it is important to build a coherent personal narrative and develop a robust personal brand, where one is perceived as indispensable. The need of the hour is women strategically empowering themselves for career advancement and growth by become visible at workplaces.
Leadership begins with standing up for own self . It continues effectively, as women develop cumulative courage and skilfully negotiate better pay packets and improve their visibility in the corporate hierarchy.
This can only happen when women own up their inherent strength, financial acumen and personal responsibility in all spheres of their daily living and not just as a persona or desired skillset for the workplace.
Whether at the workplace or in little household matters, women need to be their own champions , unabashedly. It is a necessary skill, in all realms of life, leading to work life balance. This essential mindset is the one which can liberate women from old patterns of subservience and “less than” mentality. Till women do not beat their own drum, hold their heads high with compelling personal narratives, negotiate better, develop assertiveness and walk their talk with confidence, gender barriers will remain and equality at workplace will continue to be a distant dream.
In my views , it is very important to identify what are the current issues , pertinent to women at work . Many experts and reports have pointed out that Post Covid , women at work are facing greater challenges and more burnouts. The situation is grave.
Yet, there is a silver lining to these clouds . Women are emerging as stronger leaders.
According to a 2021 McKinsey report , women leaders provided a lot more emotional support to their downlines, helping the companies in ways which has unfortunately not been recognized by a majority of companies. Unless, companies reward this skill adequately, this soft skill of emotional nurturing may fade out into oblivion, due to corporate ladder dynamics. This in turn may well spell doom for many companies in the long run.
Mental health and emotional well-being are crucial for employee productivity and healthier bottom lines.
In spite of stress and burnout related issues, as far as leadership is concerned , women are emerging as stronger leaders. Women are being able to multitask better, advance diversity, do crisis management , and motivate their teams more productively , compared to men at a similar level.
Women and Inclusivity
In the global economy today , inclusivity is a desirable management skill. Women leaders have been usually more skilled at inclusivity, yet their contribution often goes unnoticed by top management.
Women and discrimination:
Often, women face a lot of discrimination without even realizing it, on a day to day basis. Women are expected to be well-groomed at workplaces and land up spending a lot more on their basic appearance compared to their other counterparts. To add salt to their wounds, they often are subjected to a hidden tax without being are of it . The Pink Tax is one such lucid example. This tax is very hard to identify as it is insidiously hidden and gender based. Popular examples : a mechanic charging a little extra from a woman for electronics repairs, an auto driver charging extra from a woman, later in the night, when no other vehicle is in sight etc.
When a woman pays extra for a women’s face cream or a “pink” razor at a drug store or is taxed for essential commodities like tampons and sanitary pads, it all comes under the “pink tax”. Further, women pay more for haircuts, at salons ,compared to what their husbands or children pay.
Acute unawareness and overcoming bias :
The main reason for existence of this bias , is actual unawareness. The only way to overcome this bias is information. People are not aware of this disparity, because media is silent about it and consumer awareness is lo, about this issue. There is rare discussion regarding it, in magazines or social media or at workplaces.
Government does not seem to be doing their bit to eliminate this open bias, visible to all. There are no consequences, to a company , when it charges extra for a women’s product. This unconscious apathy of women towards their own best interest, often extends to the workplace. At workplaces, women avoid sharing strong opinions as they do not want to be considered aggressive. They take on extra workload and do not use this “office housework “ as a leverage for growth, as their male counterparts would.
Till women do not acknowledge and understand how these biases prevent their advancement and promote self-defeating behaviours in them, they will remain at a disadvantage. Without overcoming these visible and invisible biases, they will continue to hesitate to build a robust personal brand, in fear of being labelled “pushy” and other unflattering sobriquets.
Patriarchy and women :
Centuries of patriarchal trends where women are discriminated against, is the root cause of women not standing up for themselves. They have often internalised their “less than “ status and many admit freely that they have learnt to “accept” these discriminatory norms without raising a fuss. Often, their inner patriarch is visible in their value systems of adaptability and not creating an unrest, unnecessarily.
This entrenched patriarchal mindset at all levels of society, including businesses, paves the way for financial disparity and unequal pay for equal work. Companies get away by paying them lesser for longer hours at work and better productivity. Women are still perceived to be less financially savvy and less mindful of hidden costs, in products, so companies, take it as an opportunity to profit from this. Especially at workplaces, women are often given a raw deal, financially. They are deemed compliable, hesitant and less likely to ask for their due when it comes to salaries, compared to their male counterparts, as seen earlier.
How can women impact their own companies to move forward:
Companies which take bold steps to address the role of women, and create healthy gender friendly workplaces, where women feel valued and amply compensated at par with their male counterparts, are the ones perched for success in the coming years, according to various management consultancy reports. Deep organisational culture work to recognise and reward women leaders can be deemed to be a step in the right direction.
Women can encourage their organisations to acknowledge, adapt and change. They need to boldly admit what stifles their growth and causes burnout. They need to work concretely towards their career advancement and highlight their work. In a nutshell, Women need to become visible at their workplaces.