The Barriers Women Face In Leadership and Business
“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
– Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand)
Women are still gravely underrepresented when it comes to business.
At work: it is still men leading the charge when it comes to leadership and boardroom positions. Results from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2019-20 dataset show:
- women hold only 14.6% of chair positions and 28.1% of directorships
- only 18.3% of CEOs and 32.5% of key management personnel are women
- 30.2% of boards and governing bodies have zero female directors.
In education: the statistics for education in the same year show that women are ahead of the game.
92.5% of women (aged 20-24) achieved year 12 qualifications or above, compared to 87.5% of men
48.3% of women (aged 25 to 29) qualified with a bachelor degree or above, compared to 36.1% of men.
Earnings: despite the higher education levels, women are still paid less than their male counterparts:
- full-time average weekly earnings for women are 13.4% less than for men
- in non-public sector organisations, the gender earnings gap is a whopping 15.0%
- superannuation balances for women at retirement (aged 60-64) are 21.6% lower than those for men.
These statistics clearly show that women are on par with men when it comes to IQ. Women are almost equal to men in terms of workplace numbers. However, women are still paid less and are not reaching key leadership roles in the workplace.
When it comes to gender parity, we can continue to play the blame game or we can take a different perspective to solve the situation.
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How women think and feel about themselves is critical to being seen, heard, and respected.
A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology in 2009 showed that women are more likely to suffer from self-sabotage, leading to feelings of inadequacy and perfectionism, which holds them back.
The study showed that:
- In the workplace, 38% of the women felt they did not meet the high standards they set themselves, compared with 24% of men; and
- At home, 30% of the women said they fell short of their own expectations, compared with 17% of men.
When it comes to how women see, speak to and treat themselves, it is often much more negatively biased and can be unrelenting.
Self sabotage is the greatest barrier women face when it comes to workplace equality and success. We simply do not treat ourselves as equals. This directly negatively impacts how we show up and speak up.
The top 5 ways women unknowingly sabotage themselves:
- The Perfectionist. To our inner perfectionist nothing is ever good enough. It tells us: “Just work on it some more to be sure; that should have taken you way less time; you must work harder than everyone else; you ought to have achieved more today; you should already know how to do this.”
- The Critic. Our inner critic can be outwardly aggressive towards us or more subtle, not giving us the time of day it disapproves of us so much. It uses shame and blame saying; there is something wrong with you; it’s all your fault; you are useless; you’re a hopeless case; don’t even bother you will never achieve what you want.”
- The Controller: The controller must be constantly in control and taking charge. It will fuss over the tiniest detail and will get angry or anxious if things don’t go its way. It doesn’t let us rest, drives us to exhaustion, and has us focussed on urgent matters rather than what is important. It tells us: “If you work hard enough you can stay in control and things will go your way; I know best; others rely on me to take charge.”
- The Victim: This is the most difficult saboteur to see and accept because it’s lies have us believe our predicament is someone else’s fault. It never accepts any amount of responsibility. Our inner victim tells us: “Poor me; I can’t trust anyone; everyone is out to hurt me; life is unfair to me; others have it so easy. I’m uniquely damaged or broken; I am always unfairly treated.”
- The Pleaser: In order to survive, the Pleaser will convince us that we must make sure everyone around us is okay. It needs to be liked by everybody and can’t bear the thought of upsetting anyone. It tells us: “You’re being selfish if you don’t put everyone else first; others are ungrateful; I am a good person; I need others to like me.”
A recent client contacted me desperate for answers. She worked for a large bank and had been passed over for promotion for over 10 years. She was angry and couldn’t understand why this had happened. To make matters worse, a younger male executive who joined the company 2 years earlier was promoted over her. She blamed the company, and herself, for allowing this to happen. She felt frustrated that she was still working there, but felt that her age would limit her ability to find other work that would pay as well.
After she unloaded all her angst, I asked her one simple question. “Do you really want the promotion?”. She paused for a long time, as if considering this for the first time. Then she smiled and said, “Actually, no”.
I helped her to reconnect with her authentic self to overcome her own internal saboteurs. She realised that had been stuck in victim and perfectionist self sabotage. In just a few short months, she moved companies to one more aligned with her values, got her promotion, more pay, and felt re-inspired and motivated at work.
Our inner saboteurs destroy our self confidence and esteem, stop us contributing our ideas, and keep us from knowing what we really want and claiming it. They are the root cause of much of our anxiety and fears.
My top 3 tips for women looking to overcome their internal barriers and have greater confidence, impact and success are:
- Back Yourself: be aware of your inner saboteurs spreading negative thinking, fears and anxiety and avoid letting them run your life;
- Connect to Your Inner Sage; this is the wise, authentic you, that will offer compassion, empathy and loving support. Strengthening this inner self creates radical transformation and success; and
- Get a Formidable Mentor; someone who can support you in overcoming self sabotage and help you strengthen your inner sage.
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