7 Hurdles Women Leaders Face

By Susan MacKenty Brady on November 3, 2015

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I am humbled and honored to take the stage today to give my keynote address at our Women in Leadership Institute™. Those of you who know me know that the work I do at Linkage is very near and dear to me and my personal mission to help leaders step in to lead their best life.

I’m particularly excited about today because I’m unveiling seven hurdles that have emerged from our work with over 3,000 women leaders worldwide. Hurdles aren’t that high (just a few feet) but, as in life, can prove challenging when you are faced with them in rapid succession. The good news is, with practice and purposeful intention, hurdles can be crossed skillfully and even triumphantly. And they can (and do) help us become the very best version of who we want to be.

1. Confidence (Can I do this?)

Evidence suggests that women lack self-confidence. The challenge that confidence experts point to is the external and extrinsic ways women can build up the confidence needed to lead. Women need to believe in their worthiness—and to learn how to stop the harsh thinking about themselves and others.
Shift your thinking from confidence building to Coaching Your Inner Critic.™

2. Branding & Presence (How am I showing up?)

What are people saying when we leave the room? What do we want people to say when we leave the room? If there is any disparity between the two, it’s every leader’s job to fix. Women need to know what their specific superpowers (strengths) are and be able to articulate them.
Shift your thinking from assuming that others will promote your value to taking charge of your personal brand.

3. Ambivalence (Do I know what I want?)

When asked what their next professional step will be, many women will admit to not having a clear answer. It is the responsibility of each of us, as leaders, to know our unique strengths and to find ways that we can be in service of others as we choose to live a life of purpose.
Shift your thinking from ambivalence about your professional future to knowing what you want.

4. Networking (Who has time?)

Making time and taking time to build a network seems inefficient if not superfluous to many women. Women need to make this an even higher priority than men because women so often still aren’t in the “natural” places where men enjoy casual brand-building and networking opportunities.
Shift your thinking from tracking the “time costs” of networking to making relationship-building a strategic priority.

5. Making the ask (How do I ask for what I want?)

Research shows that when it comes down to asking for what we want, women have work to do. If we don’t get comfortable asking, how can those around us support us in multiplying our impact? Request-making is essential on the home front too; if women aren’t great at asking for what they need in their own living room, how can they do much better in the board room?
Shift your thinking from putting off self-serving requests to asking (often) for what you want and need.

6. Proving our value (Why can’t I do it all?)

Overcompensating, over-delivering, doing it ourselves, taking on too much, wanting to make it perfect—all of this makes it even harder to shift to a focus on bringing others along. Women leaders need to attract great talent and then inspire, share responsibility and influence an environment where their leadership has a multiplying impact.
Shift your thinking from proving yourself to scaling and multiplying your impact.

7. Bias (Bias? What bias?)

What beliefs and assumptions have we accepted (perhaps unconsciously) and how are they keeping us from training for and overcoming the hurdles above? For women leaders to step in fully to achieve their career aspirations, they must first understand these self-limiting barriers and then make conscious choices to think and act differently.
Shift your thinking from not seeing your part to owning the barriers that we create for ourselves.

What hurdle resonates the most with you? Why? Please share your comments with us below.

Posted in Blog, Executive Development, Leadership Development, Women in Leadership

About Susan MacKenty Brady

Susan MacKenty Brady is Executive Vice President of Global Program Strategy & Development at Linkage. She is responsible for guiding the global growth and development of Linkage’s signature immersion learning institutes, as well as public and virtual programming. Now in its 18th year, she also serves as the co-chair of Linkage's Women in Leadership Institute, which boasts a network of over 8,000 alumni worldwide. Susan's personal mission is to help leaders step in to lead their best life, and in support of that mission, she authored The 30 Second Guide to Coaching Your Inner Critic.

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