Throughout history, women have asserted themselves, to prove that they are worthy of our attention. ‘Superwoman syndrome’ was identified as a very real phenomenon way back in the 80s, and it’s true to say, that superwoman is still here, balancing precariously on the corporate ladder. She’s the woman trying to do it all; juggling the career, the family, the marriage, the friends and the house, while desperately wondering how did it all happen? She is also the one watching the men from the career sidelines, noticing the gender imbalance, the higher up the career ladder she looks.
What changes along the way? That desire and ambition that women had at the earliest stages of their career seems to dissipate, along with the opportunities to climb the ladder. Do they lose their aspiration, do their self doubts kick in, or do they just see the male-dominated board room as being too much like hard work, even for Superwoman?
From my coaching experience, my observations would be that all three are at play in varying degrees.Yet research shows that a more gender balanced board room can have a significantly better organisational performance in terms of key financial measures, innovation, governance and greater independence. (Catalyst Study: The Bottom Line, Oct 15th 2007). A fact that cannot be ignored. Yet, according to the ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ (2008), at the current rate of change, it will take more than 70 years to achieve gender equality on the boards in the UK’s largest companies. Now, while I don’t consider myself to be a hard core feminist, that pace of change is surely unacceptable in the modern world?
Self limiting beliefs, fear of failure and assumptions about career prospects certainly play a major part in why our amazing women settle for the middle to senior management positions. They see others fall by the way side, and it becomes a battle to endure, rather than a career to be embraced. The battle to show up everyday at work as ‘Superwoman’, wearing the flowing cape while performing her juggling act can start to wear even the strongest of women down, especially as they go home and do it all again.
The power of our own mind is what determines our ultimate success. Coaching and mentoring women in business to believe in themselves, to overcome hurdles along the way, and to keep being their fabulous self will be one of the differentiators to business success in the future. So why are more organisations not embracing the talented women and acknowledging their needs to give our super women something to smile about.
To learn more about ‘Superwoman’, head over to Amazon and read Jane Kenyon’s powerful and amusing book -‘Superwoman – Her sell by date has expired!’ (2014). A must read for all women struggling to have it all.