There’s an interesting New York Times article profiling Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book on the challenges women face at home and at work.
Essentially, the challenges can be broken down into internal and external blocks. I’ll leave the external blocks for another time.
I see the same internal blocks in clients over and over. They include not aiming high enough (ambition), underestimating one’s ability to succeed, and not owning one’s own success.
In a broad sense, it comes down to confidence. I was brought up to be confident (at least in the verbal feedback I received), but not to act confident. It’s a strange schism I see especially (but not exclusively) in my female clients.
How does this manifest itself? It manifests in talented women (and some men!) who seem unable to name and own the contributions they’re making because they’re afraid of seeming boastful or greedy.
I understand this. I worked on a state-wide political race a number of years ago (for a woman candidate) and initially turned down a higher wage offered by the (male) campaign manager because I didn’t want to add pressure to the fundraising and because I was afraid we were overstaffed as it was. And yes, probably because I undervalued my own contribution.
Did this worry plague any of the men in my equivalent position? No, it did not.
Later I discovered every single woman on the campaign was paid less than her male counterpart. But before I knew this, I didn’t want to oversell my contributions and I didn’t want to be greedy.
I didn’t realize it would result in overall unfairness and a not-inconsiderable wage imbalance.
I’m not proud of this. I wouldn’t recommend this behavior to a single client, female or male.
So how should we address this?
1) Recognize others will estimate our abilities (and often, our pay) at the level we estimate ourselves.
2) Evaluate ourselves fairly—the way we would evaluate anyone else, not nitpicking and focusing on our perceived liabilities. (And recognize there’s data that men sometimes overestimate their abilities…)
3) Get support so you recognize and evaluate yourself fairly. (Or as a client told me this week—name confidently your ‘honest and true’ talents.)
And may you walk your path confident in your passion, purpose, power and peace.
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