Habits that inhibit success for women

It seems that every day I receive an email offering advice on habits. The popularity of neuroscience has spurned an interest in how our brains work and what we can do about it. Habits are such simple things. Developed over time, they become enduring and quite resistant to change. They serve a purpose for us, in that they short-cut the need to think about how we behave in certain situations, and they reap rewards when that purpose is served. Continue reading “Habits that inhibit success for women”

Why self confidence is an issue for women

Emma campagning for EU 2014

A report from the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management claims that women have lower career confidence than men and more self doubts, and women with self doubts have lower expectations. In her book, “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg wrote about seeing plenty of women with self confidence issues, stating that whilst men ask for what they want and believe they deserve it, women on the whole do not.

In my recent blog on women on boards I quoted an EU report that claimed that 60% of university undergraduates are women, but significantly fewer go on to leadership positions.

After reading this study, I started to reflect on the roots of the problem. I was shocked recently to read that in the UK in the sixties, exam results were initially rigged to allow more boys to pass the 11+ (this was an exam which purported to select the brightest in order for them to go to Grammar school). Educational research also suggests that boys receive more attention in primary classrooms. Common myths around subject matter have also been prevalent for a long time – girls are ‘not as good as boys at Maths’ is one that easily comes to mind.

The movement to encourage girls and boys to equally study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a strong one and there is some evidence to suggest it is seeing some success. In a much reported move, the technology industry is proactively helping to address these issues. Moreover, we are now seeing examples of the tech industry addressing issues of gender stereotyping in grown women as well: this video with Megan Smith, VP of Google, explains why Google is addressing unconscious biases which stereotype women.

So where does the issue start? Does it go further back to the way we raise our daughters? Girls are often brought up with the expectation that they should please and encouraged to be ‘social’ beings. Boys often have an expectation that they will be boisterous and competitive. This social conditioning results in women growing up wanting to please and not wanting to rock the boat whilst men grow up being more assertive and standing up for themselves.

We really must address these issues in how we set expectations for our children and enable women to be able to fully express themselves, be assertive and develop their confidence, as well as enabling them, at the higher end of organisations, to get onto boards.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.

Women on Boards

So should we take positive action to get women on boards?Happy-team-meeting-150x150

Yes. Let me justify this with my argument.

If you look around in any country, the senior roles in large companies are held  by a small clique of mostly men. Not just this, but men who went to the same schools. It reminded me of the last time I went to a conference in the UK and watched the endless lines of grey suited, grey haired men trooping into the room. Occasionally there were women as well, however on the conference platform again mostly men.

A recent EU paper stated that ‘Although today 60% of new university graduates are female, women are outnumbered by men in leadership positions in the corporate sector in the EU. On average, a mere 17.8% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU are women’

So its a kind of closed shop which women find it very hard to break into.

It is natural to recruit in ones own image. This is commonly referred to as the halo effect in psychology. Seeing traits of others that are in common with our own and valuing these more.

However the world consists of a wonderful variety of diverse people including different age, ethnic background, ability and gender. Each has there own perspective and diversity enables organisations to think and be different. Creativity and therefore innovation require diversity. So lets encourage women who do make up 50% of the worlds population to be supported into making it into the roles that have traditionally been informally reserved for men. In addition and maybe more importantly, there is evidence to suggest that women on boards has resulted in better governance and financial integrity.

In 2011 the French government took the decision to encourage women onto boards through legislation. Today France is leading the non Scandinavian European countries with its progress.

‘In the three years from October 2010 to October 2013 the share of women on boards increased in 22 of the 28 Member States. The largest percentage point increases were recorded in France (+17.4 pp), Slovenia (+11.8 pp), Italy (+10.4 pp), the Netherlands (+10.2 pp) and Germany (+8.8 pp). Most of the significant improvements took place in countries that have taken or considered legislative action or had an intensive public debate on the issue.’

In a later blog post I will argue that equality and gender issues for women need to be addressed from an early age and not left until women reach the stage of being available for board positions.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.