7 things that hold women back in business

Sarah Negus
Written by Sarah Negus

Gender equality in business is a hot topic in our post pandemic world.  At present the UK ranks 6th in the EU (taken from findings to 2020 before Brexit) on the Gender Equality Index (a measurement tool set up by the EU based on gender equality within certain criteria, work; money; knowledge; time; power; health; intersecting inequalities and violence).  And although 72.7 out of 100 is a reasonably high score, the UK has not improved on this since 2010. 

In the UK today only 18 female CEOs are in place across FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, and while not all women aspire to such career heights many women still feel held back within the working environment. 

Is this simply because of society’s bias towards men and the conditioned view handed down through our history?  Or do women need to step up into leadership and empowerment in a different way to fast track the need within our culture for their talents and skills to be seen as valuable in order to impact business, growth and cultural change?

I say yes, not only do men need to champion their female counterparts, but women must also find the courage to overcome their boundaries and conditioned behaviour within the working environment. As a collective women have many talents, compassion, empathy, intuition, inner strength, determination and thought leadership to name a few.

The 7 areas that hold women back in business:

1. Acknowledging their visionary thinking.

Academic equality took a long time to achieve so now in our world of education we over-value learning and ignore the spontaneous intuitive wisdom women have.  Sometimes solutions are not found in books nor in accepted ways of doing things but are found in visionary thinking.

If you recognise yourself here it may be time to stop learning externally, begin your inner exploration of yourself. This is where experience and knowledge come together and create wisdom. You may have a PhD in your chosen subject and be an expert in your field, but if you do not know yourself, if you ignore your inner intuition, it can be hard to find your purpose or your path.

2. Speaking up

Women are highly intuitive, they are innovators, they have ideas on top of ideas that have merit and often are outside ‘the box’ (this is the visionary thinking we undervalue). They have learned that intuition is a ‘soft’ skill, something not to be trusted and something illogical. Therefore, instead of being confident to share their innovative ideas they keep quiet. They hold back, they wait to be asked before they offer their input. This means their view is often drowned out. This means they are often not heard or seen as the high value contributors they are.

If you are a woman with a strong intuitive voice nudging you forward, take time to listen, write down your ideas, build them out, give them a voice and share your input. It may well be exactly what is missing in your workplace.

3. Acknowledging their Wins

Women have many talents, and often have gone the extra mile to achieve something academically or personally. In fact, they may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but they are terrible at shouting out for themselves, they will diminish such achievements, so as not to ‘boast’. 

Take some time to write down all the things you have achieved in your life, put everything on paper, the small things, the medium things, the huge things. And when asked, talk about your inner determination, your achievements and the many things that offer a different dimension to who you are.

4. Asking for help

For so many women asking for help feels like failure and can become the hardest thing to do, even when burnout is rising on the horizon. As a gender we are conditioned not to complain, to give to others, to care for others, to please. Which leads to women putting themselves last. Needing support is seen as a weakness, it is seen as vulnerability and society teaches that vulnerability is undesirable. Whereas the ability to ask for help, be vulnerable with where you are is a strength and takes courage.

If burnout is something that you have experienced or you feel is on the horizon.  Write a list of all the things you would like help with as if all your wishes were to be granted. Then write a list of all the things you can easily delegate. Then take action towards a better work/life balance.

5. Self-advocacy

Women can self-deprecate. If an opportunity knocks on their door that they haven’t experienced fully, they will talk themselves down, find all the reasons why they are not qualified and then not apply.

The invitation here is to say YES, confidently moving towards the opportunity with the idea that you cannot fail, whatever the outcome, you will have learned something more about yourself.

6. Leveraging Relationships

We build networks, and communities but when it comes to leveraging a relationship, we fall short. Collaboration rather than competition is something that will foster women’s networks, building relationships and supporting others in their career growth. 

Take some time to think about your network. Who can you support, who can help you? Who would you like to meet, who can you introduce? Leveraging relationships within the workplace invites mutual respect and advocacy, it is time well spent.

7. Focus

Multi-tasking is a super-skill that women have honed over the years. They have had to, juggling work, family, education, home management and social lives means that have a lot of things on the go is normal. It can also be a distraction, and lead to a stressed mindset and a lack of focus when it matters.

If you feel there is never enough time. Use a journal to prioritise aspects of your life and decide to focus on the things that are high on the list. For example, your own personal growth (your career will not flourish if you do not grow) and the vision you have for your life and career and focus on the things that will support you.

Main photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash