Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's All Walt Disney's Fault

Have you ever noticed how certain topics seem to take off and suddenly they’re everywhere? That seems to be the case right now on the subject of career advancement for women. Oh, it comes with many names.  At work these days, we’re seeing videos and material on Gender Diversity; last year it was Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In; a few months ago, it was a Ban Bossy campaign also promoted by Sheryl Sandburg.  

While they all touch on different elements of the topic, one theme that stands out is self-confidence.  The last article to come across my desk was The Confidence Gap. It’s point? “Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.”  The article gives numerous examples of how we women hold ourselves back because we are not as self-confident as men.  Whereas a woman might not apply for a job because she feels she has only 60% of the skills required, a man would more often go for it.

We women also make the mistake of thinking that when we keep our head down and do exceptional work, someone will notice.  NOT!  This article and most of what I’ve read recently advises that we need to be more self-promoting, something that does not come naturally to us.  And, we don’t always have to be the ones who offer to take notes in meetings, the low-key, low-profile task that a man could do just as well. 

All of the recent press on this topic reminded me of a book I read in the 80’s called The Cinderella Complex, particularly when I read this segment in The Confidence Gap:
“We kept bumping up against a dark spot that we couldn’t quite identify, a force clearly holding them back. Why did the successful investment banker mention to us that she didn’t really deserve the big promotion she’d just got? What did it mean when the engineer who’d been a pioneer in her industry for decades told us offhandedly that she wasn’t sure she was really the best choice to run her firm’s new big project?”

The concept I remembered from The Cinderella Complex was exactly that. Somehow, we often fall prey to the notion that sooner or later everyone will figure out we’re not as good as they think we are—that we’ve just been lucky and really aren’t all that talented.  We really believe that about ourselves.  Oddly, when I googled the book, that was not the theme that was referenced.  Instead it was that we women were/are all waiting on Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet and take care of us.  Now, why didn’t I recall that point?  Could it be because I was the primary bread winner in my house in the 80’s and 90’s?  Perhaps.

The memory that made me laugh, though, was that I had a friend who always said, “It’s all Walt Disney’s fault; he told us we’d find Prince Charming.”  When I repeated that to a child I was babysitting one weekend, he replied, “But Aunt Kathy, your Prince Charming won’t come on horse; he’ll have to be in a taxi.”  Yes, out of the mouths of babes…