At the beginning of this year I did a survey among women in the workforce, aiming at revealing the REAL situation in companies in terms of women presence on top managerial positions. First, I wanted to check whether the companies are engaged in the idea of promoting women leadership careers. Second, whether they have strategies of achieving tangible effects in this matter. About 100 women responded to my survey – most of them work in international corporations – and shared very openly with me all their pains on how difficult it is to progress in your career when you are a woman.

What do women need to be more successful in their careers? For sure they don’t need to be fixed!

Increasing the number of women on companies’ top positions requires both organizational and individual change. The organizational changes would mean a systemic approach strategically run by companies’ board of directors, states’ governments and other global institutions.

Unfortunately according to the results of my survey, majority of companies in Poland don’t have any strategy for it!

The individual change has to happen in women themselves and yet I believe we DON’T NEED TO BE FIXED, I truly believe we need to be SUPPORTED and we need to SUPPORT OURSELVES in this process of change.

Being supported would first of all mean being provided with proper career development programs, designed and dedicated specifically to women. As research illustrates women gain more than men from learning through significant others such as coaches, mentors, peers, buddies and role models – which proves women relational learning style as being opposite to the male competitive one. The learning environment of MBA or other leadership courses is usually suited to the male model.

Majority of the women who participated in my survey said they would like to attend women-dedicated development programs if they were available in their companies.
When I asked my respondents what they would hope for to get from such programs this is what they answered:

1. “I would like to learn what stops me” – as one of my respondents said. Yes, the first important thing for our development is to know what it is that makes us hesitate, procrastinate, look for easy justifications why not to do something – shortly speaking what our mind-traps are, our internal barriers. They are like an enemy inside us which we have to fight with in order to bring change into our life. And the best way to identify the enemy is to pay attention to our self-talk.

So reflect for a moment and try to CATCH YOUR STORY – what do you say to yourself most of the time? What is the story you tell yourself about what you believe your abilities are, your skills, your personal traits, your strengths and your weaknesses, your potential?

2. “I think the other women’s points of view would help me to deal with my situation”. As said before, we learn the best from other women who are role models for us. If I meet a woman who is thriving in her professional and private life I begin to feel I can too! Just after that I want to talk to her, I want to find out the most about how she did it, I want to hear practical, hands-on advise that she checked through her life. And I’m ready to hear about her achievements as well as about her struggles – then I know my struggles can also finally lead to successes. One of my respondents said: “women are supportive and learning from them would be motivating for me”.

3. “In my company there are a lot of fantastic women-managers but top positions still belong to men because women lack self-confidence”. YES! That’s exactly this! It is probably the biggest area of development for us, women. The fact that we care about relationships so much is our advantage and disadvantage as well. We lack self-confidence because we are afraid we may lose people if we fail – they may begin to consider us as hopeless, stupid. But we lack self-confidence also because we are afraid we may lose people if we…win. People may be jealous about our success.

We sense this with our relationship-oriented mind. That’s why we are over-concerned about both our failure and victory! Both are risky! So we learn to be afraid of risk. And we get stuck. That’s why we need to work out this fear and the best antidote to fear is TAKING ACTION! For the beginning just small ones, tiny ones, just to move a bit forward – a little away from our comfort zone.

4. ”I’d like to work out the gender topic as a barrier in business and management”. That’s extremely valuable point and it was stated by some of my respondents which actually means they identify some external stereotypes and lack of social awareness in both genders which make careers for ambitious women more difficult. As one of the respondents said “men rather should take special training in order to learn how to fight their prejudices against women”.

It looks like there is a huge need that men and women start to talk to each other in companies and work out solutions of effective communication and cooperation. We discuss these topics every day in our relationships, in our marriages… why not at work? It can be one of the most important changes that needs to be made – so that women could grant themselves a permission to ACT AND BEHAVE AUTHENTICALLY.

5.”I would like to learn an effective, feminine leadership style”. My respondents expressed some concern that women who achieve top positions start to behave like men and this is not what is needed in the business world now. This opinion corresponds with what is called in literature ‘the abrogation of their female-self’ syndrome. It happens when women managers are in the minority – and as we know being surrounded by male managers is in fact the most common situation of a female manager nowadays – they disregard their differences, values, preferences in order to become like their male peers. So working out OWN INDIVIDUAL LEADERSHIP STYLE is a crucial thing for aspiring women.
More and more women open their own businesses and they are incredibly successful! At the same time, it is a clear outcome from my survey that women who are employed in companies feel like a huge but unused potential that may solve a lot of crucial business problems and they only wait for some encouragement, as one respondent said: ‘I feel that if I only got a small enhancement I would become much braver to take big challenges’, and this feeling repeats in many of the respondents’ answers.

This potential waits for someone to help it fly!

If you are interested in details about how you can thrive in your career and life, please contact me on:

All the best for you!

And what’s holding YOU back in your career and how are you overcoming it? Share your insights with us below.