27 September 2023

Why women are being left in the margins and what to do about it

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Cindy Wahler* says women are often hampered by their own efforts to ensure everyone else’s voice is heard and offers solutions to ensure they aren’t sidelined.

In the spirit of teamwork, collaboration, and looking out for others, women tend to put everyone ahead of themselves.

We are taught or socialised that getting along in the world is equated with ensuring that everyone is heard and everyone has a voice.

In this equation, though, we are busy taking care of others and we dismiss our own needs.

When I speak to my female clients, they often express discomfort in raising their hand when it comes to a promotion, better pay, or stretch assignments.

When I probe to uncover the factors behind this resistance, they often articulate that it is not right to brag.

That highlighting their capabilities is not an attractive quality.

Being humble, rather than being seen as being confident with the right amount of ego, leads us to staying in the shadows.

When we stay in the shadows, we lose our voice. We marginalise ourselves, and even worse, we become invisible.

The frustrating by product is that noisier people get heard.

These noisier people may not have ideas that are any brighter than your own.

They also may not be any more talented or qualified to take on the very assignment you wished you had the opportunity to be assigned.

There is another reason women hold back. I often hear women say:

I don’t deserve a promotion. There are more qualified people who are entitled.

If you have proven yourself, then isn’t everyone entitled?

This negative self talk contributes to women pulling away from themselves.

It means we diminish our strengths and instead focus on what we are missing.

This causes us to retreat.

Women must realise that if you fail to raise your hand, it is unlikely that you stand a chance.

As it is, it is tough even when you do raise your hand. You must, though, start with yourself.

So what should you do?

Here are some steps you can take now.

1) No regrets.

Think about the day you retire or look back on your career.

You do not want to be sorry that you held back on your views and ideas. Create a platform for no regrets. Commit to that.

2) Replace negative self statements with positive ones.

Stop being hard on yourself. Focus on how you add value and promote those attributes.

Rehearse your value add over and over again, just like winning athletes who visualise getting to the podium.

3) Apply for jobs that you are not fully qualified for.

You do not have to have 100 per cent of the skills that are listed as part of the job description.

Having enough of the skills matter and you will learn the rest.

4) Recognise that genius is rare.

When you look around the table, some of your peers, although noisy, may in fact not be saying anything at all.

And though those that are saying something have good ideas, I guarantee they are not rocket scientists.

In other words, your ideas are equally good. So go for it.

Being silent or deferential in your career will most likely brand you as a keep-the-lights-on contributor.

You may be liked, but not necessarily be on anyone’s radar for a new or exciting role.

Change the balance of the equation. Stop putting yourself at the bottom of the list.

Go first so you will be noticed. Come down from the bleachers. If you show up as important, your peers will treat you that way.

When you believe in yourself, others will place a bet on you. Your currency rises. You are now more compelling. Visibility and profile seize the day.

*Cindy Wahler is a leadership consultant specialising in executive coaching and talent management. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at ellevatenetwork.com

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