Have you spent much time thinking about what’s best for you in your career or business? Are you ambitious for yourself?
Recent research from Bain and Company demonstrates that men and women have the same level of ambition and confi dence when they enter the workforce. Yet after just two years, women’s ambition to reach top leadership goals drops 60% and their confi dence drops 50%. Men’s aspirations and confidence remain the same.
The study draws the conclusion that corporate culture fails to nurture women’s ambition. Companies create barriers for women to reach leadership positions with antiquated workplace practices, gender bias, and lack of encouragement and support. The result is that women are now viewing their own pursuit of ambition as more stressful than it is worth.
Without role models and support, they do not believe in the reality of their goals. They question whether it is worth the effort. They are adjusting their goals in response.
We can do it!
Jane C Woods, an internationally recognized authority for women’s development in business, says she really does not like phrases such as ‘women lack ambition’ because it tends to imply that somehow it is all the fault of us women.
“The reality is, of course, that it is a big problem for all of society, globally. We
do not have gender neutrality or gender balance and that skews things. This is a shame because we women have something wonderful to contribute, to change the way of working, and to make life generally better. Companies that promote more women have a better quality on all their measures.”
“Given that on your own it will be hard to challenge all of our society (although do not let that stop you having a go!) we have to look and see just what we can do. As ever, we start with ourselves. We do what we can do, however small,” continues Woods.
Give your brain a stretch
Woods says unless you are a statistical anomaly some of the following probably applies to you: you rush to the shops in your lunch break, take most of the responsibility for childcare (if that is relevant), get paid less than men in your organisation, find it difficult to speak up on your own behalf but are fabulous at helping out other people, generally look after things at home, plan the social calendar, etc. but you rarely take time out to think just about you and what you want from life and your job.
“When you can, give yourself 20 minutes to let all that go. Take a long deep breath and only think about you and your brilliant career or business. Yes, I know this is outside of your comfort zone but trust me, I have done this before… Sit somewhere comfortable, relax, let a bit of the tension out and do some coloring in,” she advises.
“This is an exercise I sometimes use to open up creative juices and get you in the mood for thinking big! You can also grab the largest sheet of paper you have to hand.“
Pick up the pen and finish the next few sentences:
- The next logical step in my career is …………….
- The next illogical step in my career is …………..
- The next step but one in my brilliant career, i.e. two steps at a time, is ………….
- The pinnacle of my career would be ……….
“Just sit and stare at your answers for a few minutes. Daydream. Do not start overthinking or stacking the dishwasher or jotting down bullet points for the next board meeting. Just allow your mind to drift,” she continues.
“Once you have drifted a while, pick up the pen and without using any words (this is really important) put down on paper what your perfect working life looks like. Your perfect career on paper. You can use shapes, color, stick people, symbols, but try to avoid actual words. You can even cut pictures out of magazines if you want and glue them on. We’re trying to give you a brain stretch here and get you to think differently about your career. Really have fun with this and rediscover your playful side. Doing things diff erently helps us think differently,” said Woods.
Once you have doodled away for a while, Woods says put it aside and go do something else. Later, when you come back to it, she says imagine you are trying to explain it to a friend. What is it telling you about your next step?
Now write down three practical things that you can do within 1) one week, 2) within 3 months, 3) within the next 6 months, to bring you closer to achieving your wonderful career. Then do them.