The Self-Awareness Gap

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Thought I’d share this interesting data from Hay Group (illustrated by Harvard Business Review) as a follow-up to my previous posting on gender differences.

This chart shows an important way in which the genders are the SAME.  Have a look at the bottom line of the bar graph: Men and women are both pretty weak when it comes to self-awareness. (As the positive person I am, I’d love to have a fact here about where both genders excel, but I don’t have one at my fingertips. E-mail me if you can share something worth celebrating!)

Anyhow, my point: This is a classic case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” This is why I believe coaching is becoming an increasingly popular tool for personal and professional growth. Through powerful questions and keen observation, Coaches act as a mirror for that blind spot. Coaches help you to understand yourself better – your style, your values, your strengths, your motivations – and as a result design (together) the perfect way for you to get where you want to go.

It makes improving easier – fun, even – when you have a really clear idea of who you are and where you’re starting from.

 

Let’s own this, Ladies.

Photo by DebMomOf3

Photo by DebMomOf3

An article by the Degroote School of Business referencing a new study,  says that corporations with women on their Boards of Directors do better because of women’s cooperative approach to decision-making. Although the reporter decided to use the blatantly sexist title, “Women Make Better Decisions than Men”, I believe the point is that there’s a huge advantage to gender-balanced leadership.

It’s not the first time it’s been shown that a female presence in such influential positions is linked to a better performance for a company. This article refers back to several studies, pointing out that women on Boards is linked to significantly higher return on equity, return on invested capital and return on sales for organizations, and it lowers the organization’s risk of bankruptcy.

Clearly, women can confidently hold their own around the Boardroom table, and ensure that their valuable experience and knowledge are factored into important decisions. So why is it that when it comes to advocating for themselves, they (and I’ll include myself here– “we”) so often tip-toe around it or back down?

I witness this phenomenon among my professional female coaching clients. They don’t ask for the raise, or if they do, they agonize over it and then make a conservative request. They don’t ask for additional resources before they’re desperate, and they aren’t the ones who ask to sit in on the meeting they weren’t invited to. And now I’m going to back up at least one of my generalizations with research: In the fabulous book “Ask for It” (by Babcock and Laschever) – the title of which reveals what they think women should do more of! – there’s a study that concludes: “Women can often accurately assess the value of a task as long as it’s being performed by someone else. It’s when they’re trying to calculate the value of their own work that self-doubt swoops in.” (The men didn’t demonstrate the same discrepancy.) What I have no doubt about it that this behaviour can affect women getting what they want in many areas of our lives, not just in business.

We have proven we’re good. And the men, the women, the whole population knows this — it’s 2013 for goodness sake! Yes, there are some barriers for the female population, but we’re not walking through all the ones that are broken down already. Something holds us back when we’re working to forward our own agendas. It’s slightly different for each of us, but as the “Ask for It” book points to, it’s something in the world of “self-doubt”. Everyone reading this might have a theory as to why this is the case, but as a Coach, my orientation is to take action versus seeking to justify the circumstances.

Ladies, let’s own this. When it comes to hesitation around building our hard-earned careers and businesses let’s just “build a bridge and get over it.” I’m not usually this blunt, but I feel justified because I’m speaking to myself here, too: let’s make sure we use our innate abilities and specialized skills to work for ourselves as well as for others. And it doesn’t have to be difficult: We know we have a blind spot, so it’s our responsibility to check it.

For the men reading this, a special request: please call us on it if you see us deflecting professional kudos, ducking around the spotlight, hesitating to apply for the promotion/ respond to the RFP, or taking on too much when we should be asking for help. We know we have your support and will try not to be our own worst enemy.