One of the favourite things about my work is seeing the brilliant women I work with ascend to new heights in their career. 

Clients have: 

  • Been promoted twice in 6 months to become the CEO’s right hand woman. 
  • Invited to take their rightful seat on the exec board to influence the business even more. 
  • Confidently leading a multi million pound business through the pandemic

These women are incredible, they are changing businesses, challenging the outdated corporate world structure and leading voices in their industries. 

These women are the exception, not the much needed norm. 

You could assume these women have steely confidence and unshakeable self belief. Yet in my experience that’s not the case. 

Externally these women are a success by anyone’s standards, the great career, salary to match and a comfortable lifestyle many aspire to. Yet internally they have daily wobbles, doubt themselves and feel like a hot mess of emotions, just scraping by.

They’ve battled long and hard to get to where they are. They’re at the top of the corporate ladder, yet women like this often don’t get to enjoy the view, being too worried about being found out or failing. 

These women deserve it ALL, the fire and passion for their career whilst being able to switch off and enjoy their family time. 

Their peers and colleagues need their different perspectives, their powerful expertise and intuitive decision making to inspire future leaders and create more balanced organisations.

Plus the world needs female leaders, to challenge the outdated corporate hierarchy and create more parity and change for good. 

Isn’t it men’s fault? 

There is a lot to be done here, to create parity between make and female leaders but that’s not for today.

To be clear, this isn’t another article about how men are preventing women from advancing in the workplace. 

YES the corporate work place is challenging for women there’s lots of evidence for that. 

Study after study reveals myriad ways that women are held back in their career growth, silenced in the workplace, and straight up discriminated against. Feeling regularly undermined by unfair pay gaps, unconscious gender bias, it’s not surprising women feel cautious and not entirely confident.

For this blog though we’ll focus on how women can accelerate their impact and influence and get themselves to where they want to be, faster. That’s our focus on female leaders helping themselves.

There’s so much female leaders can do for themselves and as they grow that challenges the corporate structure anyway. 

How are Female Leaders Holding Themselves Back 

  • Downplaying and Belittling Language 

Women use the word “just”, “if” and “sorry” frequently, it’s almost like apologising for taking up that space and for having an opinion. It downplays our impact and expertise, it’s not about trampling over others but stepping into your own fire and brilliance. 

You owning more of who you are and your expertise, with your language doesn’t make anything less for anyone else. 

Inspired Action: 

Think about your language, how you speak to yourself and when you’re using “sorry”, “if” and also using powerful positive language when sharing your wins and progress.

If you must use an adjective, make it “great” or “important’”.

  • Not Owning Expertise 

Downplaying your expertise, and your impact. Being scared to share the scale of the business you run, the teams you’re responsible for or the budget you have. 

I had to write a bio for myself, with my business and it took me some time to get to, I ran multi million pound launches for household names. It didn’t feel like me, it felt arrogant and a little showing off BUT it’s the truth. 

Inspired Action: 

Write down all your wins in life, from when you were growing up to now. What have you achieved, overcome and got through?  

  • Overgiving and Exhausting Yourself 

The days of the office have gone, but women still have presentism the first in and last out feeling like they have to be there. And also struggling to delegate at times, when you want something done in a certain way. 

Lockdown has also meant women taking on more … juggling work and home, supporting teams and the emotional drain of giving so much for so long. Many women are exhausted, disillusioned and still doing more to feel enough. 

Inspired Action: 

Reclaim your energy and your time, you own your diary so use it to remind yourself of your value and worth. 

  • Not being YOU … being a b*tch, a yes woman or acting like a man 

Many women feel under pressure to fit in, compromising who they are to to fit in and feel valued and appreciated. They lose the hard edges who they are and hide their emotions for fear of being seen as “over emotional.”

Inspired Action: 

Feel ALL the feelings, this is where you fire that passion and purpose lies. And come back to your values, showing up with your values at work what would you be saying, thinking, feeling and doing?

  • Self Beliefs and Perceptions 

Many women seem to have a distorted sense of self, the internal reality and the internal perception don’t match. Despite having achieved so much there is an old outdated belief that you’re not enough at the heart of your self identity.

Inspired Action:

Get clear on your beliefs and upgrade them to where they are now, write down your beliefs and keep digging deeper … to find the core belief at the heart of who you are, then ask is it true? Does it serve me? And what is the evidence? What is a new belief that is true? (This is some of the core work I do with my clients, so powerful … you can message me below if you want help with this now.)

  • Not Asking for Pay Rises or Promotions 

Not actually asking for that pay rise or going for the promotion, for fear of being judged or failing … just not occurring it’s a right women have to ask for more. Yet in asking for more … are we being selfish, greedy or demanding … heaven forbid we ask for what we’re entitled to and have earnt! If you don’t ask, you don’t get 

Inspired Action:

Take inspired action, trust and KNOW you’re worthy of a pay rise or that long awaited promotion. What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t go anywhere that is NOT about you, there’s another opportunity for you coming soon.

Here’s An Example

In 2008, Google noticed that women were being promoted at a lower rate than men in engineering. They realised that it came down to a very simple reason: the default way in which promotions happen. At Google during that time, to get promoted you raised your head and said, ‘I’m ready to get promoted.’

Women were nominating themselves at a lower rate than men (a gender trait that’s often seen from the earliest years of education, where boys will raise their hands more in class). The People team partnered with the head of engineering who sent a communication to the company to highlight this issue, transparently sharing data and explaining what was happening and urging the women to ‘raise their hands’. They did.

You need to repeat your message – and you need other people to repeat it.

The results were great – for a while. After about a six-month cycle, the issue happened again; no one had sent another email and people had forgotten or just reverted to their old behaviour.

What I see, time and time again, are strong, female leaders telling themselves a story about their skillsets, competence, and workplace interactions that isn’t accurate or empowering.

Often, the story is so ingrained that female leaders go straight from a situation to a reaction, and do not step back to assess the validity of their self talk.

4 Steps for Women to STOP Holding Themselves Back 

Dig Deep Into Your Beliefs, Own Your Self Perception 

Whether it’s Imposter Syndrome that haunts you, fear that you’re less dedicated because you’re a mom, or some other persistent insecurity, it’s time to pull that hindering story out into the light. 

What’s your self perfection? What are your beliefs? >>> This is what is holding you back, and like a childhood jumper you’ve outgrown it. 

Get super clear on how you speak to yourself, what are the stories that are there? How often do you tell yourself that story? What triggers it? 

It’s like shining a light on the monsters in the dark bedroom when your child wakes up scared, it’s not REALLY a monster it’s just the coats on the back of the door.

Be Curious and Experiment, Take the Pressure off Yourself 

You don’t need to be constantly perfect and never falter, I know you’re in the spotlight at your level but time to take the pressure off. Wobbles are human and there’s huge power in being vulnerable and sharing some of how you feel. You’ve already come so far, it’s okay to enjoy your job and where you are, create more balance at home and not always be pushing. That’s simply a decision and what is right for you. 

STOP Downplaying your Impact with Your Own Words and Behaviours

Many of these women admit they also don’t speak up about or draw attention to their own accomplishments. And, when they are praised or recognized for their work, they quickly dismiss the praise or redirect that praise to someone else (i.e. their team members).

Ladies, stop doing this! It’s wise to avoid brazenly bragging about your big wins, but straight up dismissing praise that comes your way is a mistake. Don’t downplay your impact and influence for fear of bragging, you’ve worked hard for these bragging rights. If someone praises your work, say “Thank you,” own it and drink it all in.

Help other people tell your story well, own your expertise and self promote

What are the three adjectives you want used when describing you as a professional? Start using these words to create people’s perception of you. This is the brain mechanism of prediction and response, the more we think of something the more we look for and find it.  (Watch this video to hear Morgan Stanley’s Carla Harris explain this strategy brilliantly.)

Women need to repeat again and again their brilliance and promote themselves and their skills. It’s hard to promote a secret.  Don’t expect people to notice your ‘potential’ without your help?

Actively document your successes (big and small, technical skills and people skills) and keep this for reviews but also share in one to one’s.

Remind yourself of your wins

The mark of a great leader is their willingness to self-reflect and grow, but not if you focus so much on those areas that you convince yourself you’re not as capable as you really are. Everyone has development needs, we all do … it’s not a sign of weakness it’s a sign of being human!

Keep things in perspective by regularly celebrating your successes and wins. The story you choose to focus on is the one that becomes true.

Create your support crew.

Look, you’re allowed your human moments. We all have them. But a moment of self-doubt does not define your story, a bad day doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job. Find a few people who you can trust, who can be there to support you and you can be true and real with, even having a good old cry, being vulnerable or an emergency rant with.

If you’ve found this useful, I’d love you to share? And which from the list above will you start with? Message me here to let me know.

If you want help to stop feeling guilty, I have just 2 VIP client spaces to work with me. Drop me a message or email me here

If you found this useful please share, and here’s my daily Clarity 10 min Kickstart to help you keep a clear head and that “balance”… just click here to download your FREE copy!

BIg love

Nic x

P.S. In case you haven’t heard I’m running a FREE Empowered Corporate Empath Masterclass – a 90 minute workshop for women in the corporate world who want to STOP hiding how they feel for fear of judgement. They want to establish themselves as leaders in their business. They know they can have a BIGGER impact but hide their feelings for fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable.

Is this you? I’d love for you to join us, just register your free place here.

The workshop is on Wednesday 21st April at 7pm and if you can’t join us live you can catch the replay. This could be the firestarter you’ve been waiting for. The spaces are limited. So reserve your spot now before it gets filled up! When you register, make sure you put the date in your calendar and allocate around 90 minutes!


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