You may have come across a statistic that suggests men will apply to jobs even if they’re only about 60% qualified, whereas women apply for jobs when they feel they’re 100% qualified for it. A lack of confidence is reported as the cause. Tara Sophia Mohr, unconvinced, surveyed hundreds of respondents and asked them, “If you decided not to apply for a job because you didn’t meet all the qualifications, why didn’t you apply?”
The most common reason stated by about 25% of women was: “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications and I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail.” Only 13% of men chose this option. The possibility of failure, not a lack of confidence, was the obstacle that women confronted more regularly. This indicates that women hold themselves to higher moral standards. Now, does this make us better or worse? There is no right or wrong answer here — it’s subjective. The possibility of failure can be devastating for some. To get over this behaviour, I started looking for answers for myself. The best reads I came across were by Marshall Goldsmith. His most recent publication, ‘How Women Rise,’ addressed some of the behaviours demonstrated specifically by women in the workplace. So far, some of the traits that I thought were my strengths, could have been possible barriers to my growth.
Luckily, I got an opportunity to be part of an event hosted by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen where they unearthed the habitual ways that women tend to hold themselves back from achieving corporate success. For me it was encouraging to see so many women at the event. This clearly shows that women are taking the initiative to break the glass ceiling and overcome their self-limiting behaviours. Some of the key takeaways from the session that stood out to me and I would like to share are as follows:
Letting go is hard for women in multiple ways. They often get stuck in task-based jobs, limiting them from developing full and rounded careers. It is important to stop doing the same tasks just because you are good at it. Inculcate the habit of moving ahead and picking up jobs that will help you find the next career move or a better opportunity. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to change. Have the courage to move on. Thus, instead of fretting over the day-to-day grind, it’s important to develop a thought process that pays attention to the overall, bigger picture, rather than just the next task.
Intricately linked to the first point, it is interesting to note that unlike men, women are more likely to get attached to their teams at every stage of the workplace hierarchy. In addition to this, they foster within themselves a need-to-please attitude and a sense of obligation to their coworkers. They are also more invested in helping others (even when it’s not required). Ultimately, all this leaves them cemented in low-level, dispensable jobs. This means women find it harder to say no, take on too much, and flounder themselves in minor-impact but major-effort roles. But that does not have to be the status quo. If your planner looks a little full, it’s okay to say no. If you are burdened by your daily tasks, it’s okay to say no. If you don’t want to do a task that does not fall under your responsibilities, it’s okay to say no. Repeat that to yourself: It’s. Okay. To. Say. No.
Your personal development is important — so prioritise your progress and achievement. It’s important to stop focussing on situations that you have no control over. One of the key takeaways was, “Significant decisions are not necessarily taken by those who know what is right or best, but by those who have the power to take decisions.” That means no matter how long you spend trying to mould a situation to better suit you, it may not happen. Instead, concentrate on jobs that aid your development.
Mamatha, an Executive Assistant at Accel, had this to say after the session: “This made me think about what I should be doing to achieve the next milestone in my career, how to come out of my comfort zone, and the pathways to explore my own potential.”
You may think it’s a noble leadership characteristic to give your team or co-workers equal credit for work that you have done, but this can be detrimental to your own growth in the long run. Do not be afraid to take credit for your achievements. You may consider it self-centered to be vocal about your contributions, but it only indicates to your organisation and its management that you are ready to take on more high-level responsibilities. Furthermore, don’t just expect to get noticed, as standing by for affirmation may result in demotivation, furthering the cycle of self-criticism.
Interestingly, the event also revealed how these takeaways are applicable to women in any demographic; whether you’re a founder, a manager, an assistant, or an intern (among the multiple positions that women occupy in companies across the world), these are actionable processes.
Swathi, a student at Stanford, stated, “It helped to identify issues faced by women and I was able to resonate with a lot of things. I identified behaviors that I can work on.”
For a young HR Manager at a startup, “The experience was quite revelationary.”
To sum it up, it’s important for women to take initiative for their own development. It’s also important that organisations provide women with the right guidance and opportunities to succeed.