Let me start off by saying that I know women DO succeed in business. There are several success stories from CEOs of multinational corporations to small business owners. Women can, and do, succeed.
But do we do so at the levels that we should? I think that’s debatable.
While I do believe that there are some glass ceilings out there that still need to be broken, I also think there are other things at play. Some of them we can’t control, we can only work on addressing and trying to change them. But some we can absolutely fix for ourselves.
So, why don’t we succeed at the levels we should and what can we do about it? I’ll admit that some of these are blanket statements or generalizations. Read on.
Why we don’t.
Business is what it is. It’s not a secret – business is traditionally a man’s world. The rules for success, the expectations in a job, the way business is completed in general…all geared toward men. And that makes sense because a lot of corporations were built by men. But then how do women try to fit into that?
Expectations are different.
Traditionally (for literally centuries), the man brings in the money, the woman keeps the house and family in order. But for women who enter business what happens? Many times, they are expected to adapt to business life while still maintaining their full-time job as the family’s full-time caretakers.
That’s a recipe for disaster because it’s nearly impossible to work two full-time jobs and give 100% to both. Something’s going to have to give.
If faced with that choice, many women will choose family over business. Is that failure? Not at all. But do you know of any men who have been faced with the same dilemma?
Men and women are wired differently. We don’t look at problems the same way, and our solutions can often show completely different patterns of thought. That should be a good thing.
But, so often, women are expected to adapt to a man’s way of thinking in the business world. There are more and more people who do recognize how a different approach can be beneficial, and that’s a good thing for women.
But CEOs who are stuck in a mindset may not see the full potential of having a differing perspective, and that’s where women fail – through no fault of their own. That being said, there is fault to go around as well.
Self Sabotage; Our own worst enemy
Let’s face it – sometimes we can’t get out of our own way. And sometimes we prove stereotypes about women to be true. All it takes is one person to give the rest of us a bad name, right?
We all do it. There’s always going to be something or someone that we just have to talk about, and sometimes not in a good way. That has no place in the business world.
Yes, men can be unethical too. And many have been. But women are held to a different standard (yep, unfair again). Women have to be impeccable because every little thing can be scrutinized. One misstep can be the end of a career.
Again, speaking in generalizations here. If a man makes a mistake in business, chances are he accepts it, maybe learns from it, and moves on. But some women like to complain. They’ll blame anyone else for their mistake or try to deflect it by bringing up unrelated issues. Nobody in business has time for that.
So, what can be done?
Aside from the obvious generalization of “do better than a man,” there are a few self-corrections we can take that might make a difference.
There’s a difference between being confident and being a “you-know-what.” (Btw, that’s another unfair perspective: strong women are often misunderstood to be too harsh).
It’s possible to have self-confidence while still being open and approachable. This is not a one-size-fits-all thing, however. Each individual has to adopt an attitude that feels comfortable. Fake will not go far.
Women are emotional beings. That’s just fact. This is most often a good thing. However, in the business arena, being too emotional can bring a host of problems and misconceptions.
It’s okay to show your enthusiasm for a project or task. But make sure to let it shine through in your product, not necessarily in your outward emotions. I know this sounds challenging. But if you pour the love and care into the process, the end result should show that without you having to be overly dramatic about it.
If you were hired for a job, or if you have begun to succeed in your own business, whatever you did right to get there should be a great start for moving forward.
Think about it: if you went through multiple interviews for a job and you were offered a position, they saw something that they liked or a benefit you could bring to the table.
(Unless you were totally fake through the interview process. But that’s a totally different story).
Use the talents that got you the interview and the position to carry you through to success.
If you put all of this together, then it seems that the reasons women don’t succeed are actually reasons that they should. It requires understanding from the establishment and introspection from the individual to come up with a working solution that benefits everyone.
But knowing and relying on your own strengths, being aware of other’s perceptions, and using your instincts can be highly effective. At least it’s a formula for prospective success, and you have to start somewhere.
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