There are many reasons women are not reaching top jobs – long hours culture, unconscious bias, discrimination against working mothers and historical institutional structures that are set up for men. However, one reason that is gaining ground is that women just don’t want senior jobs. This is an understandably popular theory as it places the blame for female under representation firmly at the feet of women themselves, rather than addressing any larger institutional and societal reasons. The Institute of Leadership and Management recently found women do indeed minimise their expectations and give in to self-doubt. They asked managers to think back to their early careers and whether they anticipated becoming managers: 50% of women did compared to 62% of men. Similarly, half of women said they often felt self-doubt, compared to just a third of men and only 14% of women said they would apply for a job for which they were only partially qualified compared to 20% of men.
But should we really let it rest that women are “our own worst enemies”? Confidence and early expectations are clearly big issues – but there is more at work there. At the moment most women looking ahead don’t see many senior female faces, which no doubt diminishes their own expectations about rising to the top. Similarly, is it healthy for any professional, female or male, to not feel self-doubt? Self doubt is a sign you can see other perspectives, are aware of what issues still need addressing – where you may be wrong. Surely these are valuable skills for any leader to have! Political events and the economic meltdown of the past 10 years have shown us the problems inherent in following leaders who are undeservedly too sure of their convictions. Find more articles on career planning here.