Helen Fraser, of the Girls’ Day School trust has spoken out at her organisation’s annual conference to question why so many girls struggle to push forward to success in the workplace despite being high-achieving and confident in school.
Speaking to the Girls’ Day School Trust, a network of 26 independent schools, Fraser said girls need to be encouraged not to allow their “inner critic to silence their voices.”
But what is happening to women to stop them from progressing in their careers to reach the top levels like men, despite often outperforming boys in school?
Are girls encouraged to be clever, quiet and personable?
It could be that the problem is set in society, where girls are encouraged to be clever, quiet, and personable rather than risk-takers. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being clever, quiet, or personable, but if this over-rides your self-confidence, then there is a problem.
The importance of confidence
Without strong self-confidence it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of just diligently getting along in the hope that someone will notice, rather than pushing yourself forward.
Of course, this is not just a problem faced by women, as there are many men who do not show the ‘extrovert’ tendencies that get you noticed, but it is particular issue for women, it seems. For example, despite outperforming boys educationally, women tend to earn less than men and hold fewer senior posts.
Women in management
This workplace situation is perhaps compounded by those places that still seem to operate a ‘men-only’ style ‘boys club’ at management level. Breaking down these type of out-dated ideas and structures will take time and work by both men and women together, but we should certainly be doing more to ensure our brightest girls don’t hide away and wither in the shade.
As children, boys and girls are often faced with different social pressures. Even where parents and teachers try to level these out, the media, and society at large will still impact the self-image of boys and girls.
Are girls overly self-critical?
However, this can lead to the situation where girls become far more self-critical than boys and can tend to hide their ideas because they feel they may not be good enough or worth sharing. This is particularly true when intimidated by a situation like a board meeting, or interview.
This mind-set can also lead to further problems, especially among young people who, without the right coping tactics, can find themselves struggling with mental health issues.
To get over this self-censorship it is important to try and build up your own inner confidence so that you feel okay expressing an opinion or talking about yourself. Modesty is often seen as polite, but too much modesty can harm your prospects as you never take credit for work you have done or show how bright you can shine.
So, rather than telling yourself you are not good enough, or questioning your ability, try to build yourself up – and support your friends and family too – you owe it to yourself and to each other to push forward to success in the workplace.