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  • Writer's pictureMarion Burchell

#see her to be her

I have never drunk so much coffee in my life than I have in the last two months – and I’m a tea drinker! It was during one of those coffee conversations the topic of women in leadership was raised by a young, ambitious and aspiring woman. It was clear from our conversation that she was thinking deeply about her next career move and wasn't certain if she should step up.

This concerned me. Were talented women actively opting out of leadership roles?

Apparently so. We discussed this further.

During the conversation it became clear that there were a number of reasons why there were few young women in leadership.

1. I couldn't see her to be her

It's well documented that people get inspired by seeing people similar to themselves achieve. It had saddened me to learn through our conversation she did not pursue a career in a certain field due to the fact she had never seen a female in that field.

Research indicates one of the biggest factors to women breaking into executive roles is seeing other women who have made it. It creates a sense of normality, rather than the exception. The presence of women in leadership positions is seen as an indicator of an inclusive culture and range of leadership styles by current and prospective employees[1].

Sometimes you may be that female - pioneering a new career adventure for future aspiring women.

Tip: We all have a responsibility to each other to show what is possible. So when you doubt yourself, think of those who will come after you - inspired by what you are achieving - and keep going!

2. I don't have 100% of the credentials

We have all heard the statistic: men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women when the meet 100%. The source of this statistic is from a Hewlett Packard internal report, and has been cited in Lean In, The Confidence Code. The result? A perception than women have to believe in themselves more and grow their confidence.

Interestingly, a survey published in Harvard Business Review[2] disputes this stating that the real reason is a perception that the stated qualifications were required, no exemptions given. The idea of advocacy, relationships or a creative approach to demonstrating skills and expertise against the criteria was not considered a viable approach to applying.

Apply anyway. You may surprise yourself and get the job. And if you don't, the process helps to discover and focus your skills, capabilities and experiences. It also helps build your profile with management, who may be unaware of your achievements, abilities and aspirations. In doing so, it may lead to other opportunities.

Tip: if you chose not to apply for a job and a confidently unconsciously incompetent person (CUIP) is successful - that's on you. If you do apply and the CUIP is successful, then that's on the recruitment panel.

3. I will have a better life without all the politics

Yes, as you climb the corporate ladder you will have to deal with fragile egos, personal agendas and lots of people dynamics. You will make sacrifices with your time and how you spend it, especially with friends, family and your hobbies. In many instances, women just don’t want to have to deal with the corporate version of Game of Thrones.

A study found that women tend to do a different cost benefit analysis when it comes to work, with only 40% of females wanting the top job, and 32% stating they don’t want to deal with the pressure[3].

Tip: make sure you have dealt with your sh!t so that you're not contributing to the politics. Always play the game with a straight bat and never sacrifice your integrity or brand.

4. Females leaders are treated differently

A point of consideration during our conversation was her observation that women were treated differently in the workplace, more specifically, people were more critical of female leaders.

A Harvard study using sociometrist budgets showed there was a difference in how men and women are treated in the workplace. This difference, it is suggested, is not due to difference in behaviour, but to do with bias[4].

Sometimes your staff and peers will judge you to a higher standard, with greater scrutiny, and ensure you're the #1 news story on #channelofficegossip.

The thing is, there's nothing you can do about that. You have no control over what people say. What you do have control over are your actions. Be clear about why you are in a leadership position. Remember, your staff have never experienced the dizzying heights of the executive - they don't understand. In many instances it would be inappropriate to share with them your decisions or attempt to validate your actions. Instead, re-focus them on their purpose and the value created by their work.

Tip: Don't listen to the gossip. Remember the reason you were given the opportunity to lead and focus on what you need to achieve and why. The results will speak for themselves.

Be clear on your purpose and make sure your decisions benefit the greater good. Be comfortable with those choices and take responsibility for them. Don’t be a victim of conformity - make your own choices.

About Marion

Marion is a highly experienced and accomplished strategy, innovation and leadership professional with a focus on the enterprise and government sectors. She is a trusted advisor to CEOs and senior executives, providing practical and pragmatic solutions to the challenges they face. Marion is the Managing Director at Azolla Holdings Pty Ltd, a Board member, thought leader and member of an international entrepreneur association.


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