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Despite breaking the glass ceiling, women today are failing to make their mark in top leadership positions. Are they not cut out to be leaders or are they lacking the competency/passion to excel? Theories on poor representation of women in key roles are abounding.  

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In: Women, Work & the Will to Lead, believes that women restrict themselves in several ways, jeopardizing their prospects for promotion. 

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Women today have more opportunities. This is evident from the increased number of female enrollments in professional courses, more flexible work environment, greater focus on women’s leadership program modules and career development etc. However, despite all there is a dearth of women leaders.

One of the key reasons behind the abysmal representation of women lies in the fact that they systematically underestimate their abilities.  They often feel they need to know more, learn more or have more experience to let their true worth to be seen. This self-doubt shackles them and stops them from climbing up the corporate ladder.

According to a study, women only applied for a promotion when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. On the contrary, men happily applied when they thought they could meet 60% of the job requirements.

Why do women underestimate their true value? 

Researchers suggest that constant stereotyping of leadership as a male characteristic (whether implicit or explicit) creates a negative mindset. Women coworkers often rate themselves as less efficient.

The ability to correctly predict how others see us, (known as meta-perception), is a critical aspect of self-awareness. When women underestimate how others value their contributions, they unintentionally hold themselves back. They become hesitant in seeking a promotion or asking for a raise.

Women need an extra dose of self-reliance to capitalize on their real potential. For instance, many times women employees feel dissuaded by the negative feedback of their bosses. Here it’s important they don’t give up right away, instead think about what it would take to show them otherwise. As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor once said, “In every position that I’ve been in, there have been naysayers who don’t believe…I can do the work. And I feel a special responsibility to prove them wrong.” Indeed, it never hurts for us to do just that.

Women are more reticent than men to negotiate 

Negotiation is viewed as a key leadership strategy by industry veterans and champions of Best CEO Training Programs. The act of professional negotiation is different for men and women. While men ask, renegotiate compensation agreements and partnerships confidently women are often intimidated by the act of asking for their worth in the workplace. The feeling of anxiety takes over their confidence when it’s time to re-evaluate their leadership performance and value.

According to a survey published by Glassdoor, “Women negotiated less than their male counterparts”. While 60% of women accepted the salary they were offered and did not negotiate, for men the percentage was significantly less.

Most established and successful organizations set aside money to meet the employee’s expectations for better compensation packages. Yet only 30% of women bother to negotiate at all, while 46% of men negotiate,” according to Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations. These translate to a huge revenue loss over a lifetime for the average woman seeking to climb the leadership ladder.

Note: Negotiation is one of the key determinants to narrowing the pay and value gap in the workplace and business. Hence, organizations must develop negotiation strategies wherein women are encouraged to ask for better compensation agreements corresponding to their potential.

Break Down the Barriers

Shifting the focus towards empowering women is necessary to make inclusion work for all. Although there are resources to assist women, the ingrained unconscious biases in the workplace dampen the spirit of creating inclusive corporate culture.

Women employees should be supported by mentors and advocates to open up dialogue around the advancement of opportunities & responsibilities. Effective Ceo Leadership development program for women employees is one of the ways to give them the push they deserve!