How to create more than just a crack in the glass ceiling

Find yourself continuously apologising, playing mum or not asking for that promotion? These are three common mistakes women make in the workplace, says Nicky Garcea, director at organisational psychology firm Capp.

by Nicky Garcea
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The glass ceiling has a hairline crack, but it is not yet broken. Women remain underrepresented at senior levels and latest research shows us that just 14% of FTSE 100 directorships and 22 percent of senior management positions were held by women. This, despite the fact that in the last year alone, female enterprise contributed over £130bn to our economy.

There are many reasons why female leaders are less represented in businesses, but research points chiefly at organisational bias and actually, perhaps surprisingly, women holding themselves back.

You don't have to be superwomen to make it to the top, so what are the key challenges facing women?

Confidence issues

Capp has found that women give away their power and confidence on a daily basis. This could be by constantly asking for permission, saying 'I’m sorry', for example. Or being afraid to voice opinions.

Recent research from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) amongst senior leaders found that half of the women surveyed experienced feelings of self-doubt about their performance and career. Only 31% of men reported the same.  

Personal PR

Women are too quick to sell themselves short and they are often scared of putting themselves forward or asking for a promotion. ILM reported that 20% of men said they would apply for a role, despite only partially meeting its job description, whereas only 14% of women would.

Strategic approach

Women tend to believe more readily than men that they will be noticed and promoted on the basis of ‘merit’ and ‘hard work’. They are busy ‘doing’ and sometimes lose focus on their career strategy and, sadly, their merits go unnoticed.

Squandering networks

Career sponsors are a fundamental part of career progression for any emerging leader regardless of gender. Sometimes referred to as the career ‘godparents’. These are the people who will seek out opportunities for the emerging leader they are sponsoring. Harvard University recently found that women consistently seek out mentors and sponsors of less power and status than their male colleagues, instantly limiting their access to the most senior individuals in an organisation.

If these are some of the realities facing women at work, what can organisations and women do to get more businesswomen into the boardroom and crack that ceiling a little more? Leave a comment and let us know.

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