I recently watched the TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, called “why we have too few women leaders“, she describes some behaviours and limiting beliefs that get in the way of women achieving senior positions in companies.  She talks about 3 things that they can do to improve their chances, over and above what the organisations are doing:

  1. Sitting at the Table – She describes the typical differences in attitude to success between men and women.  Women systematically underestimate their own abilities – they tell themselves they’re not good enough, and focus on what went wrong instead of what went right.  Women don’t negotiate for themselves in the work force.  Men attribute their success to themselves – women say they got lucky.  However, no one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side.  Negotiate for yourself, own your own success.   Success and likability are positive for men, and but viewed negatively for women.  Men are reaching for opportunities… women are not.
  2. Make your Partner a Real Partner – this is about your partner at home sharing the load.  Usually, as well as holding down a job, women are doing most of the housework and most of the parenting.  With this balance, it is obvious whose career has to give way.  A balanced partnership at home facilitates a career for women, as well as the additional benefits of a lower divorce rate.
  3. Don’t leave until you leave – Women have a habit of planning for motherhood in their minds, sometimes even subconsciously,  well before a baby is due to be born.    Sheryl tells a story of a lady who wasn’t even in a relationship, who was already not putting herself forward for things in case it meant that she wouldn’t be able to fit it in around motherhood.  They start leaning in, so are overlooked.  Then, when it’s time to return after maternity leave, if the role wasn’t challenging and rewarding before leaving, it is very hard to justify leaving a child at home to return to the office.  Sheryl advocates keeping your foot on the pedal until right up until it is time to leave.

There are some real systemic beliefs here in each of Sheryl’s 3 points above.  Some of them are in our national culture; we are brought up with these beliefs that are passed onto us from the field mind around us.  However, things are getting better and better… 100 years ago, women had only just been given the vote – we have come a long way.  There is not too much further to go before we can even the balance.

If you are one of the women who wants to stay in work and wants to make the changes to your behaviours and beliefs so that you ‘lean in’ as Sheryl puts it, then do get in touch for some coaching and we can work on getting your career to take you to the top.