A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at Harvard Business School’s Dynamic Women in Business Conference. Our panel discussion was titled, Working in Heels: Women in the Workplace today, and the focus of the discussion was the internal barriers and external barriers that women hold women back from advancing their careers and assuming leadership positions.
Internal barriers such as our limiting beliefs about gender, success, our ability to balance family and work can contribute to our lack of advancement. Also mentioned was the hesitancy to promote ourselves, take credit for our accomplishments, and speak up.
External roadblocks are the cultural biases that still prevail in the workplace today against women in leadership positions. Men still occupy the top level positions and women don’t seem to be making the expecting progress of winning more board seats or c-suite placement.
I thought it was particularly interesting that this video interview from Harvard Business Review with Anne Morriss, also focused on what holds us back and offers some very different reasons that middle managers do not advance to leadership roles. Anne’s research was not gender specific. Here are the five major ways she found that managers hold themselves back.
1. Overemphasizing personal goals. Leadership is not about you, but providing the structure for others to be successful. The focus needs to move from yourself to other people.
2. Acting like a leader can get in the way of leading. We can get distracted by our public image.
3. We turn our competitors into our enemies. Making other people wrong disconnects us from reality and the ability to take in data and be open-minded.
4. We wait for permission. This is especially true of entrepreneurs.
5. Going it alone. We need a strong team around us who compliment our strengths.
Here is the link to the video interview:
What’s Holding You Back?
What are your thoughts? Do you relate to any of these reasons?
Good post Bonnie…I agree with your points. I would add that the lack of good women role models and mentors (especially in formal mentoring programs) also adds challenges for women considering leadership roles. Many of us in higher leadership positions were fortunate enough to have had strong women leaders somewhere in our past who help shape our careers and our ideals about leadership and management in general. Companies who invest in women’s leadership networks and formal mentoring programs often see an increase in the number and quality of women leaders.