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Female Self-Sabotage in Business: How to overcome it

Sarah Macarthur-King

Closing the gender gap is all over the media right now and is a focus on most Government’s agenda.

Just the other week, Victoria’s Liberal Leader set a public target of raising the number of women in Parliament by 10 percent each election. In this article I want to highlight what business leaders, owners or executives can do to advance women in business.

What exactly does ‘closing the gender gap’ mean and why is it a big deal?

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency says that “Gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man” however there is only so much ground that can be made through changing organisational culture, systems, and processes. Now don’t get me wrong, these changes go a long way towards that vision.

What’s missing is helping women get out of their own way, enabling women to challenge the unwritten rules and beliefs a lifetime of cultural upbringing and silent societal paradigms has created. Imposter syndrome is a great example of this.

What’s the biggest obstacle?

Now, what I am about to say is going to be confronting for some; stay with me though.

I contend that the greatest adversary in women achieving the Elysium of workplace equality is Themselves. Successful women self-sabotage and I am just as guilty as any…trust me. Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In absolutely nails it. As the COO of Facebook, she highlights how women are unconsciously undermining their potential everyday.

We all know men and women think differently. For example, did you know that a man will apply for a job if he thinks he meets just 60% of the criteria while a woman generally won’t apply for a job unless she feels she meets the criteria 100%? That means vastly less women applying for higher opportunities…just because of a difference in thinking.

It’s madness and reduces the potential talent available to employers.

This difference in thinking hit me when I quizzed my husband one day. He’s the kind of leader that makes things happen, no matter the challenge or obstacles. He shared that after he finished a task, meeting or project, he’d congratulate himself and acknowledge his success.

I realised I never did that. I’d always berate myself for not doing as well as I could have or for missing something. He just said “Why would you do that to yourself? Why make it harder?”

He was totally right. From that point on I changed my thinking and rated myself much more. My perception of work became incredibly positive and success just kept popping up…all by changing my thinking.

Can you imagine the increase in successful women in business if we all thought like this?

Sheryl Sandberg emphasises how important it is for women to start making this change themselves; “…the world needs you [women] to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.”

How do we overcome the gender gap?

  1. Think Successfully: If you’re unconfident, fake it until it’s normal. Back yourself and look at your success, or as Sheryl Sandberg says, “stop the self-flagellation”.
  2. Get a Coach: Acknowledge that personal or professional growth brings fear. That’s normal. Get someone to help; a professional coach is a good solution.
  3. Invest in You: Ladies, take ownership of your own destiny. Invest in your development. Don’t preach gender equality if you’re not prepared to invest in yourself and make it happen.
  4. Push through fear: There will never be that magic moment when you have got everything together. Never. Push through the fear and uncertainty.
  5. Network and communicate: If you own a business and want more female leaders – reach out and find them rather than waiting for them to come to you.
  6. At Work, As at Home: Got a family? Challenge the cultural norm of being the primary caregiver. Men are very capable caregivers. ‘Your way’ is not the ‘only way’ to run a home.
  7. Create Opportunity: You don’t have to do it all to have your version of success. Delegate or out-source. Get help cleaning, with food preparation, get an au-pair. Nobody ever said you had to do it all.
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Sarah Macarthur-King

Sarah Macarthur-King is an Executive Coach and Founding Director of Invictus Coaching Solutions. 20 years of working in male dominated organisations, such as the British Army, Australian Defence Force and Work Health and Safety focused industries have provide her with the experience and knowledge to assist corporate women or female business leaders maximise their leadership presence.

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