To celebrate International Womens Day, which is all about honouring women’s accomplishments, raising awareness about gender disparities and discrimination, and promoting global support for women, I want to talk about power gaps. Kathy Caprino originally wrote about several distinct power gaps that prevent us from thriving in our work and limit our confidence, energy, self-belief and sense of internal control. They keep us from feeling like we are where we want to be in terms of impact, responsibility, leadership or compensation. I’d like us to focus on four very prevalent power gaps and the key steps that we can take to bridge them…
- Recognise your talents and accomplishments. In my coaching practice, I typically work with high performers who are on the brink of making a big leap / change in their career or who are feeling stuck and need some support. They are highly talented and have accomplished so much. I am no longer surprised that most are faced with some kind of imposter syndrome and struggle to step into their own power. Ask yourself, can you answer the question, “What are my special talents and abilities, and how do I stand apart from others in my field?” It took me the first 15 years of my career to be able to really own this and close the power gap. Honestly, there are still times that I have to ward off feelings of imposter syndrome. I know have it reframed as a good thing because it’s usually highly successful people who feel it!
- Communicate from strength not fear. Recognising your strengths is one thing. The next is being able to communicate it. I used to worry that communicating confidently would sound like “bragging.” I often shied away from speaking compellingly about what I’ve done and achieved, and this meant missing critical chances to claim opportunities that would grow my influence and impact. I soon realised that many of my competitors – especially male competitors – were not shying away and I admired them and respected them. By sharing who you are from a place of strength and humility, you will attract opportunities and be able to let go of what does not serve you. Here’s a video we commissioned last year that I’m very proud of and our new website will launch in 2023!
- Ask for what you deserve. If you feel you deserve a promotion, a salary increase or to be part of leading an exciting new project… ASK. What do you have to lose? The fear is often one of being rejected. But we miss the reality that by not asking, we are actually rejecting ourselves. If you don’t ask, you’ll lose ground, and your competitors or colleagues are more likely to get ahead. Typically, women struggle more than men (although I see men in coaching struggling too). Research shows that 57% of men negotiate their very first salary out of school, whereas only 7% of women do so, which creates an inequity from the very first step in our careers.During our “Key Steps to Negotiate Your Way to Success,” I share a study where MBA graduates were offered a job, the men – on average – negotiated 11% more on their starting salary. Assuming they received moderate annual increases and invested the extra money, the men came out at the end of their careers (age 65), with 1.6 million dollars more. This was based on the cumulative effects of one negotiation. We cannot afford not to ask. Do points 1 and 2 over and over until you really get that you are deserving and then asking will become easier.
- Connect yourself to influential support. Although I am much better at this, I’d say this is still a development area for me. I used to expect my work to speak for itself, which meant I didn’t do point 2 very well and then I’d tell myself that “I hate networking and self-promoting. It’s so awkward.” I’d give myself permission to hide behind my laptop or stay with my clique. If you’ve struggled with this too, I want you to remind yourself that without building a supportive community that can help you grow, without expanding your network of colleagues and clients, you’ll severely limit your access to exciting opportunities and work. And I can assure you that there is nothing superficial or awkward or braggy about it when you find your tribe and learn to network effectively – it changed my life and career.
It is up to you to step into your power and potential, increase your impact, confidence, network and success. It’s up to you to support women around you to do the same. This doesn’t mean it is easy and it is really normal to need some support with aspects of the above. This might be in the form of working with a mentor, coach and/or joining a workshop. Know the investment of time and energy is worth it. We are privileged to see it every day as we work with powerful women (and men) that take Key Steps to… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.
Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.
Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’