New research by My Confidence Matters about workplace confidence, training and career development, supports the premise that whilst women have plenty of ambition to progress into more senior roles, significant barriers still exist.
Of those seeking further career advancement, the most commonly selected obstacles respondents faced were as follows.
1. Lack of visible opportunities for internal promotion: A culture of a “closed shop,” a perceived lack of openness and encouragement, or financial cutbacks.
2. Too much to juggle and not enough time: This, despite only a third of respondents’ citing a lack of flexible working as having an impact on their career. Of course, those with insufficiently flexible working may be underrepresented amongst respondents.
3. Lack of self-confidence and self-belief: Whilst 79% of women admitted lacking confidence at work, only 65% said their organizations offered coaching and mentoring. Coaching is typically offered at senior levels, but these services should be available to all future leaders.
Three Key Recommendations
So what can each of us do to help women realize their ambitions and progress gender parity? And how can we bring forward the 202-year prognosis? Here are three key recommendations for all organizations and individuals to play their part in getting to equal.
3 Tips For Organizations: Support, Invest In And Prioritize Women
1. Support Women Employees If They Lack Self-Confidence
Only half of women respondents felt they would get enough support from their manager to overcome a lack of confidence. As Marie Cooper, head of people at Swim England, put it: “If I was really confident, I would feel more in control and would prioritise my development […] more than I do now. Lack of self-confidence and self-belief is holding me back […].
Senior management need to take steps to build self-confidence. This can have a dramatic effect on careers as well as on health and wellbeing; and the research suggests it impacts women the most.
2. Invest in Leadership Skills Training for Both Men and Women
80% of respondents wanted their organization to offer leadership skills training.
3. Recognize the Value of Internal Sponsorship
65% of respondents wanted their organization to offer internal sponsorship (if not already available). It is important that all managers recognize the importance of encouraging women to put themselves forward for senior roles; sometimes a tap on the shoulder is all it takes. In the words of Alison Eddy, London managing partner of Irwin Mitchell: “Some women need somebody to identify they have the skills and encourage them to put themselves forward for senior opportunities.”
Tips For Individuals: Assume Personal Responsibility
1. Seek Out Mentors and Find Your Own Sponsors
Vanessa Vallely OBE (founder of WeAreTheCity) believes: “If women want to enhance their careers, that lies within them. It’s not necessarily the responsibility of their line managers and their firms; there’s a lot that we can do ourselves.”
She cites networking as a fundamental part of her own success and actively promotes it by advising women to grow their networks, invest time in meeting people and seek out mentors and sponsors.
2. Know Your Worth
The research revealed that 54% of women are scared of asking for a pay rise, compared with 37% of men. Do your research, take a stand and speak up for what you are worth.
3. Recognize and Address Imposter Syndrome
46% of women respondents (compared with 33% of men) said that managing a negative mindset stopped them making an impact at work.
Management consultancy McKinsey estimates that bridging the gender gap would add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025. Our research makes it clear that a positive change in the workplace requires a focus on promoting confidence and self-esteem.