In a moment of pure joy, expressing my never-ending gratitude for my “job” as a Coach for talented women in challenging careers, I posted an update on social media:
“Just finished a 2 hour coaching session with one of my most visionary clients who is changing the world…buzzing!”
This client is indeed visionary. She is planning a conference that shines a spotlight on the an important issue. She has aligned a number of key speakers – government ministers, change-makers and celebrities – to feature at this conference. She will change lives!
But do you think she saw herself as visionary? No way! She doesn’t even believe she has what it takes to realise her vision. She only recognised herself from my description because the timing of my post could only have applied to her.
“Really?” she asked in an email to me. And that “Really?” conveyed so much. It was is if she was saying “Little old ME? Can you really have been referring to ME as visionary?”
And this vignette illustrates the problem with women!
We live in an era when gender equality in the boardroom is viewed as an economic imperative. Companies with three or more women in senior management functions score more highly on average for each organisational criterion than companies with no women at the top. 69% of companies who implement gender diversity policies report an improvement in brand image. I could go on and on with the statistics that demonstrate the benefits for everyone of gender equality in business.
I have been part of and observed umpteen discussions about what organisations must do to attract and retain more talented women. Every single one of these conversations stresses the importance of implementing flexible working policies and of creating a culture that does not penalise women for the fact that they have children and that, at the time of writing at least, they are primarily responsible for childcare (although there may well be a shift with the introduction of shared parental leave in the UK just over a year ago). Flexible working is indeed important and it is a big part of the equation.
But flexible working is not the FULL equation. There is a factor involved that usually gets ignored and it is something that I have quite extensive experience of:
We also need to help talented women to stop holding themselves back
For the past 14 years, I have been working as an Executive Coach and Trainer to the sort of talented women that companies are seeking to attract and retain. I’ve worked with thousands of women across the globe and I have watched them exhibit the same self-sabotaging behaviours over an over.
Whenever a new client starts work with me, I send her a Questionnaire. Here is one of the most revealing questions I ask these new clients:
“How do you get in your own way?”
And the answer is, the smart, educated, ambitious women I work with get in their own way – and therefore hold themselves back – in a multitude of ways!
Over the coming few months, I’ll be sharing with you some of the recurring themes in the answers to the “how do you get in your own way?” question. If you’ve ever suffered from lack of self-belief (so that will be ALL of us!), you’ll want to read the first of these “ways”. If you’re not already on my mailing list, pop your email into the box below so that you don’t miss any of the posts.