5 Reasons Women Don’t Advance

While the rate of female CEO replacements has risen, only a small percentage of women are making it to the executive suite.

There are the more obvious barriers that stand in our way— like discrimination, lack of support, and the sad state of maternity leave in many jobs throughout the country, just to name a few. (And let’s not forget women still make $0.79 for every dollar men make in the same job role.)

Those are serious obstacles that will hopefully improve as society evolves towards equality, in thanks to those who advocate and fight for such rights. 

Today, however, we’re going to focus on the barriers to entry that exist within ourselves. In many cases, we aren’t even aware of their existence or that we allow them to hold us back. 

But knowledge is power, and becoming aware is the first step in making change. Let’s dive into five of the reasons women aren’t advancing into the leadership roles they deserve. 

Do you have a plan and are you asking for what you really want?

The reasons women don’t advance revolve around two common themes: lack of a plan and not asking for what they want. 

5 reasons women don’t advance 

1) Imposter syndrome.

Women suffering from imposter syndrome may feel a sense of inadequacy at all levels of success. For many of us, crushing self doubt fools us into believing that even after success, we’ll soon be exposed as incapable, fraudulent, and not good enough. It’s important to note that imposter syndrome is common and you can continue to be highly successful as you battle those thoughts. It’s simply a matter of learning how to recognize them and not allowing them to control your behavior or steal your joy. 

2) Lack of ambition.

When I say “lack of ambition,” I don’t refer to the kind rooted in laziness or apathy. Instead, I refer to the lack of ambition that stems from an inherent obligation to be grateful and content with what we currently have. It’s the reason many women feel they’ll be recognized or promoted simply by doing a good job. And if we aren’t noticed for doing well, we’ll simply work harder, stay longer, and take on more responsibilities. The thought process is similar in other societal traditions.

Many women wait patiently for a hand in marriage, as if receiving the offer without asking increases its value. In reality, however, many of us will have to ask for what we want to get there—and it’s just as valuable when it’s self-driven. 

3) Not knowing how or when to ask.

Maybe you aren’t sure what you want, so how could you know what to ask for? Or maybe you know what you want, but you aren’t sure how or when to approach the matter. Not knowing the right way to ask for an advancement is one simple, yet crippling, reason women aren’t getting the promotions they deserve.

“Rising to a higher position gives you more control, flexibility, fulfillment. You can create the life you enjoy without sacrificing those responsibilities.” 

4) The family vs. career debate.

As women, we take on many roles. Some of us are mothers or caregivers in addition to the responsibilities we have at work. It’s why many women feel they must choose one or the other. How can I move up in my career as I care for my aging parents? Will I be able to be a present mother to my children if I step into a leadership position? It stops many of us before we even begin to consider the possibilities of advancement. While the concerns are valid, I’m here to tell you it is possible to have both. In fact, rising into leadership doesn’t always mean you’re working longer hours. It usually means you’re working just as many hours but for more pay. This means you can hire help for tasks such as housecleaning, mowing the lawn, meal prep, or errands. Being a leader means you have the additional finances to delegate menial responsibilities and more efficiently use the time you have for family and/or work priorities.  

5) We don’t have many examples to show us it’s possible.

Your environment is a model for what you think you’re capable of. In other words, if we don’t see others doing it, it’s hard to believe we can achieve something similar. It’s difficult to identify the possibility of climbing to an executive position because very few women are in these roles today. Often this is a subconscious belief we have that prevents us from rising into leadership positions. As more women successfully climb this ladder, however, this subconscious thought cycle will hopefully shift among up and coming female employees. 

How to overcome these obstacles to advancement 

Make a plan. 

Think hard about what you want. What type of advancement are you looking for? What kind of leader do you visualize yourself to be? Get clear on where you’re currently at and where you want to go. 

Then, strategize for the next position. Here are some My Promotion Plan resources I highly suggest for any women looking to make the next step in her career. 

What’s holding you back from your next career advancement?

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