Women and Ambition and Underselling Ourselves

Women and Ambition I recently had the great pleasure of being involved in teaching a group of senior government officials from China. Many of the group were women, which was terrific to see. We had a number of discussions centred around women achieving senior positions. Some women expressed the view that whilst they were keen to take up more senior roles they were concerned that the process might make them hard edged and to forget the fact that they were women. I recently met with women from a range of backgrounds who expressed a similar view. They were looking at someone who when they had achieved senior positions or perhaps on the way to achieving appeared to become much harder and tougher and may even have forgotten about supporting other women. I thought this was really sad and on the occasion with the Chinese women and women from other professions, within Australia, my response was they needed to be authentic. They needed to focus on being themselves. There is a great quote by Oscar Wilde ,I often use “be yourself because everybody else is taken”. I'm very firmly of the view that women can achieve, support other women to achieve and still be women. So, have a think about whether or not your role is turning you into something that you'd rather not be, perhaps your fulfilling you ambitions but not helping women around you. We achieve because of our own efforts but more importantly because of the efforts of those who went before us, and those people who are supporting us. We all have an obligation, both men and women, when we achieve senior positions to put the ladder down and make sure we help others up. Underselling Ourselves. I got a call the other day from an executive search consultant who asked me about a particular woman I know. They were checking some facts about the woman's background. They were also concerned that the woman presented as far more talented than she had actually portrayed herself at interview. I agreed with the consultant and then proceeded to do a pretty good job of selling the woman so at least she could get to the next stage of interviews. It struck me that sometimes women are not very good at selling themselves when considering a new role or asking for a pay rise. Take some time to write down the skills you have, the work you've done, all the solid reasons why you should get the job, the pay rise or to achieve your goal. Keep a scorecard of your achievements, it can help sometimes when you hit a rough patch and, more importantly, is a valuable record. The other reason we sometimes don't sell ourselves well is we get nervous at interviews or perhaps when we make a pitch about a new idea. December's Harvard Business Review as a great article by Adam D.Galinsky and Gavin J.Kilduff , “Be Seen as a Leader”, which cites a whole range of research that could be used to assist people when preparing for an interview, setting up a new project team or taking on a new role. They talk about “ priming” people to feel powerful before they get involved in the new situation or interview. They then analysed the effects of the “priming” and found that people within the group and individual themselves were more confident and more likely to take a leadership role. The other piece of research that is useful and would help when preparing for an interview or other stressful work situation is Amy Cuddy's TED talk when she addresses the notion of “power” posing to gain confidence before you undertake a difficult task or situation. I'd like to to know what you think about Amy Cuddy's talk and also about the new article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review. Send comments and share your own experience.

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