Guest post by Kathy Caprino
Several years ago, I began to notice some very common, repetitive patterns emerging in terms of what professional women were dealing with in their careers and jobs that were blocking them from the success, reward and impact they were longing for. I decided to pull back the lens to identify what’s at the heart of this widespread experience of unhappiness, disillusionment and disengagement.
In looking at the data that emerged from thousands of interviews, conversations, trainings and client sessions over the past decade, I sought to get to the bottom of why professional women globally are experiencing the same types of crushing challenges and disappointments and are struggling so hard to understand why or what to do about it.
The answer that emerged from the research was this: There are two key ingredients that professional women need more of today to reach their highest potential, and those are bravery and power.
Bravery is the courage to examine what isn’t working in our lives, to take full accountability for what we can change, and to walk through the fear, confusion and doubt to take proactive steps and make the critical changes necessary.
Power is the ability to act on one’s own behalf and advocating for others in an effective way–becoming a true author in one’s life and having the ability to speak, ask, connect, challenge and serve with greater confidence, strength and impact.
The 7 Damaging Power Gaps
What also emerged from my research are these specific, career-thwarting 7 damaging power gaps that that prevent women from advancing, thriving and achieving the highest levels or reward, impact and success. These power gaps are remarkably common among women of all walks, education levels, industries, fields and roles. And these gaps are prevalent among those in entrepreneurial life, as well as corporate professionals, consultants, private practitioners and other types of work.
1: Not recognizing your special talents, abilities and accomplishments.
2: Communicating from fear not strength.
3: Reluctance to ask for what you deserve.
4: Isolating from influential support.
5: Acquiescing instead of saying “stop!” to mistreatment.
6: Losing sight of your thrilling dream.
7: Allowing past trauma to shape and define you.
How Prevalent Are These Power Gaps?
To measure the prevalence of these gaps, I conducted a survey in 2019-2020 and the results echoed the qualitative findings:
98% of female respondents indicated they were facing at least one of the 7 power gaps.
Over 75% were experiencing 3 or more gaps at the same time.
The average number of gaps experienced was 4.
In the vast majority of cases, power gaps don’t just emerge from one event or situation. They are shaped over time by what we’ve experienced in childhood and beyond, and also from how they have been encouraged, pressured and trained to think, feel and communicate, and ultimately from how they see themselves. This shaping – from society, families, work experiences, social media and more – impacts the trajectory of our personal and professional lives in important ways.
What Leaders Can Do to Address These Damaging Power Gaps
The damage from these power gaps is not just to the women but to your entire team. Leaders can be extremely instrumental in supporting professionals to recognize the power gaps they may be facing, to take the right steps to overcome them, and by building a new type of work culture that allows employees to address their power gaps openly, affording them opportunities to see themselves in a more positive light, with new eyes. Leader can and need to make a difference.
1. Help Employees Celebrate Their Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments
Teach all your managers and those who lead others to incorporate new ways of recognizing and celebrating employees for their special talents and contributions. Point out these special contributions both privately and publicly and give others a chance to recognize each individual for what they uniquely contribute.
2. Foster Strong and Assertive Communication In All
Build a culture of trust and growth where both men and women can communicate from strength not fear, and encourage employees to speak up authentically and openly about their opinions and ideas. Don’t allow managers to squash down people who challenge the status quo bravely or who represent change and innovation. Build a strong, open organization that supports strength and honesty in its people.
3. Create a Structural Process That Allows Employees To Ask For What They Deserve
Provide employees numerous opportunities throughout each year to explore with their managers what they want to do and create in their careers. Help them find avenues to ask for, and achieve, new growth in new ways that will expand their value and their skills. Help them understand and measure the value they offer to the organization and compensate them well and fairly for that value.
4. Forge Avenues For Influential Mentorship and Sponsorship Support
Build a mentoring community within your organization (see MentorCloud.com and other mentoring platforms) and provide new opportunities for professionals to obtain influential guidance, support and help outside the organization.
5. Stand Up and Say “STOP!” to All Forms of Mistreatment
As a leader you’re in a position to stand up and put a stop to all forms of mistreatment in its tracks. This includes gender bias and discrimination, pay inequity, sexual harassment, narcissistic behavior, toxic communication, emotional abuse, and other forms of mistreatment. Remove perpetrators of abuse from the organization. Role model and enforce a no-tolerance policy and don’t waffle on this. Build avenues of communication and support for people who feel they are being mistreated.
6. Help Employees Connect To Their Thrilling Dreams
Give employees important opportunities to identify and reconnect to their biggest career dreams, and explore new pathways for them to achieve those dreams right there in your organization. Engagement will soar when you do.
7. Be a Healing Force – Manage With Forthrightness, Kindness and Compassion
The past often shapes us in ways we often cannot recognize ourselves, but others can. For all the people you lead and manage, be their staunchest supporter and sponsor, and help them see what they’re capable of at the highest level. Facilitate their ability to see their amazing strengths and talents but also where they are engaging in behaviors that might be in the way of thriving and succeeding at the highest level.
Kathy Caprino, MA, author of several books including The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, is a career, executive, and leadership coach, trainer, writer, and speaker. A former corporate executive and therapist, Kathy is dedicated to the advancement of women at work, and Founder of Kathy Caprino, LLC and The Amazing Career Project online course. She is a Senior Contributor for Forbes.com, as well as a VIP voice on Thrive Global and influencer on LinkedIn. Her podcast, Finding Brave, is a leading resource in careers and leadership and reaches a global audience of professionals. Watch Kathy’s TEDx Talk on Time to Brave Up