Women have been schooled all through their lives to not attract attention to themselves, so much so that as women we have forgotten to pay attention to ourselves. In an effort to embed humility into our character, what really has been sown are seeds of self- doubt.

Despite that women continue to excel on all fronts- both at home and at work. Supportive partners are instrumental for their success and ecosystems can help women go much further. Why is it then, that there are such few women on boards and in leadership positions.The 2018 Fortune list specifies that only 24 women (4.8%) were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Women account for less than a quarter (24%) of senior roles globally.

Moving from entry-level to the C-suite, female representation falls by more than 50%. It’s not just the C-suite that has a diversity shortage. The percentage of roles held by women steadily decreases at every seniority level along the career path.

Interestingly though: 50% of men think women are well represented in companies where 10% of senior leaders are women!

So what are the habits that keep women stuck? Have you seen any of these in yourself?

  1. Women pick authority over influence. 

It’s time to unlearn old leadership habits that are moored in command and reporting structures. Organisations are much more fluid now and depend more on how you build sustainable relationships without using authority as a conduit.

How does this happen?

You share. You share what you know. Information hoarding in the digital age is so passé. The time is ripe to share what you’ve learnt, to attract people to your brand and influence. Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that, building influence isn’t a cost free enterprise. Networking and sharing your knowledge free of charge with others, requires an initial investment of time and energy. But the returns are well worth the effort.

 2. Women build relationships, but don’t leverage. 

This is a defining difference between how men and women network differently. The old boys’ club is one that deals in favours and doles out favours. Women have outstanding relationship building skills. They are adept at engaging their teams, motivating their employees and understanding that there’s no one size fits all. Despite this, they are not propelled into leadership roles.

Women often end up saying “I don’t want them to feel that I am using them”. And this is where lies the challenge of not leveraging the relationships. Women believe that a person who does this “isn’t nice” and we don’t want to be ‘not nice’.

Let’s take niceness out of the equation. Simply focus on quid pro quo. In most cases, it most certainly is implied and may not always be explicit. But you choose what works for you. Leverage and friendship overlap sometimes and there’s nothing unnatural about it. We are always telling ourselves stories. Tell a story that will make you feel OK with asking and offering.

3. Women may not always pick wisely

Anita has been a manager for almost a decade now. She’s a smart and intelligent resource. And of course she gets rattled when younger women with far less experience get ahead of her in terms of designation and pay. She remains rational though. She understands that it is only because she has been where she is for the last 10 years, that she enjoys comfort at home. She’s able to maintain that flexibility and being with this particular organisation has sentimental value for her.

Do you know what Anita has been doing? She has been placing her job over her career.

She has repeatedly avoided showing interest in the progress of the people around her for fear of feeling that she wants it too and she may have to break out of her comfort zone for it. She is working ‘in her job’, rather than ‘on her career’.

Will awareness of these habits that keep us stuck change things for us? That’s completely up to you.

I would encourage you to introspect on the things that you were doing, when you were truly excelling. And find out what your strengths and talents are. And put them in service of closing the knowing-doing gap.

All the best!

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