Developing skills and insight to achieve
more than one thought possible was once the domain held exclusively
for star performers and in many cases, in the not too distant past,
those plucked for that trajectory were exclusively white males. In
my younger days, girls did not have the same opportunity to play
team sports as males did. Instead of being on the field of play,
girls were only given the opportunity to cheer the team to victory
from the sidelines. This focus on gender variables is not to ignore
the injustices of race in our lifetime (a subject for another day).
Those were simpler times when our professional and social identity
had certain expectations – especially in Southern cultures.
Has gender bias disappeared? In many cases,
with the encouragement of changes in the laws like Title IX, gender
discrimination became risky business. We owe a real debt of
gratitude to the female trail blazers. Pioneers take all the arrows
and we stand on the shoulders of those giants. My mother was a
professional trail blazer; a woman ahead of her time. Courage could
have been her middle name. She made me a believer by her example.
If you aren’t convinced that we girls are
the instigators of our own career-limiting habits rather than having
them thrust upon us, it may surprise you how big a shift there has
been in who holds the wealth these days. In 1970, only 4 percent of
household’s wives’ incomes exceeded that of their husbands. By
2007, that figure had grown to 22 percent. It is likely within the
current economic climate that rise has grown even more substantial.
Currently, close to 50 percent of all top wealth holders are women.
We earned it. We wanted a level playing field and it appears we
have got it – now, if we can just stay out of our own way. Overall,
$20 trillion in investments are controlled by women – an increase of
over 16 percent in one year. More than 9 percent of the world’s
billionaires are women! How’s that for progress?
The emerging workforce can’t identify
anymore with how hard it was to crack that glass ceiling but, in a
way that’s a good thing. However, for all we have heard about
intergenerational differences in the workplace, the workforce still
relies on many of us ‘ole gals and we unfortunately still struggle
too often with our ingrained career-limiting habits holding us back.
Guys have career-limiting habits too, but they manifest much
differently. I’ve been in the workforce since 1969. Like many of
you, I have experienced biases of all stripes. I worked over a
decade in a totally male-dominated environment and now over a decade
in a female-dominated environment. In my opinion, neither has the
answer to the Holy Grail. An environment of mutual respect, where
we all believe that what we are trying to achieve is worthwhile, is
the key to success. One gender is not better than the other – just
But for now, just between us girls, it’s
time we put on our big girl panties and leave a positive legacy of
good example for those who shall follow us (male and female). Here
are a few career-limiting (and sometimes career-ending) habits of
women that I’ve experienced along the way. I’d like for us to bury
these somewhere under a rock never to resurrect again:
We take things too personally (the single biggest career
limiting habit that holds us back)
We worry too much about whether someone “likes us” or not
We withhold information valuable to the group if someone
hurts our feelings or fails to acknowledge what we bring to the
Fear and self-doubt can thrive in our heads:
We assign bad motive to a person just because they disagree
We sometimes allow process to override results driven
We allow our emotions to overpower our intelligence
We fall for the passive-aggressor’s sucker punch (been
We spend far too much time letting negative self-talk
dominate the thoughts in our heads
So, do yourself a favor – get out of your
own head and instead get your head in the game. Know who you are
and what your value system requires of you – then go for it! I’m
counting on you to continue to blaze more trails. It is a far more
interesting place to spend your time. If you have examples of other
career-limiting habits send them my way (even if you are a guy).
I’d love to hear how you have conquered them!