Visibility as a woman in business 

Do you hide your light under a bushel or are you good at blowing your own trumpet? What is it about us Brits, women in particular, that makes us so reserved about sharing and celebrating our skills? Maybe you even have trouble recognising and acknowledging what they even are? This week I’m exploring why, even us sassy queenager types, might not be showing up fully in our power, preventing ourselves from being as visible as we could be, and the knock on effect that might be having to us as women in business. 
Our background and life experiences shape us and influence how we show up. I grew up in the north west of England where a spade is always a spade (unless it’s a shovel). My dad was proud of us kids but didn’t really know how to show it in a nurturing way. He always said as long as we’d done our best that was good enough BUT I remember being nervous about telling him that Derek Walker had beaten me in Maths one time . This was primary school, and I was often top in English and Maths, Derek a close second. I had done my best but somehow my test score of 98% made me feel like I wasn’t good enough as Derek had scored 99%. 
A few years later, in my first year at secondary school, I had mostly A’s with a couple of B’s in my report. My form tutor’s comments were ‘An excellent report of which Lisa can be justifiably proud. There is always a danger, in this situation, of over confidence. I hope Lisa will note this danger and consider it carefully.’ 
It all went downhill from there. A few years later my English teacher had this to say ‘Lisa has considerable ability, but she has a tendency to be rather too easily satisfied with her own standard.’ 

Always try your best  

So the messages I heard growing up could be translated to: 
• try your best but your best is only good enough if you get to be top 
• try your best but don’t be proud when you do well because confidence is not good 
• you’re good but you don’t try hard enough and are easily satisfied 
There was a local phrase ‘peas above sticks’ that was used to describe folk who were getting a bit cocky. I know my dad said that to me more than once. Adolescent Lisa was obviously showing promise but a bit of a handful. My favourite comment from my 4th year at secondary school came from my maths teacher. ‘Lisa enjoys life but must realise also that she is at an important period in her life. She has the ability to achieve the highest grade at O’ level. I only hope she is serious enough for long enough to grasp all the new work.’ I didn’t. I could NOT get my head around algebra AT ALL. I think I got a B in the end. 

Celebrate your achievements 

I’m not sure whether my teacher’s comments were a sign of the times or a product of the straight talking community that we lived in. Maybe both? I know that we were brought up to just get on with stuff. Shit happens, you get back up, dust yourself off and get on with life. The fact I struggled with depression for many years also affects my outlook on life. During those darkest times of my life everything felt so difficult, just day to day stuff was hard work. Compared to depression years my life now is a doddle. 
I was brought up being told there’s always someone worse off than you. Having this attitude to life means you develop resilience that’s for sure! This was the way things were. That way of being, still, to this day, means that I don’t always stop, take stock and recognise what I have achieved or acknowledge what I’m good at or do really well. 
I’m much better at helping others acknowledge and celebrate their achievements which draws from skills I honed when teaching. To me, as a teacher, it’s important to bring out the best in your learners. To empower them, to tease the answers out. To praise when appropriate, to provide feedback in a way that isn’t going to knock confidence. To be honest but kind, using tact and diplomacy. 

Another gender gap 

It’s a good idea to take stock and review regularly. This is not only relevant when you are learning something new but in business as well. Goal setting, then knowing how you are going to measure your progress towards those goals is a good practice to get into. I do this monthly by asking myself a series of questions and recording metrics. Tracking it really helps you to see how far you’ve come, especially when you feeling like you’re going two steps forward and three steps back. 
However, on a daily basis it’s too easy to forget to pause and to celebrate your achievements before moving on to the next job in hand. I’m definitely guilty of this although I’m much better than I used to be. I often take my skills and knowledge for granted and shrug things off. My coach and my accountability buddy both commented and made me aware of this a couple of years ago. So, this is something I’ve been actively working on. 
Studies show that, generally, men find it easier to big themselves up and are more confident around their capabilities than women. A friend and I were chatting about this when she was considering applying for a job and while she met the majority of the criteria there were a couple of points, she was lacking in. She was thinking about not even putting her application in. I think completing a job application well is a skill in itself. I saw some corkers when I was shortlisting for teaching staff as the prison education manager that’s for sure! According to a recent study, statistics show that women are far less inclined to self-promote even when a job with higher pay is at stake. Societal norms are mentioned, and self-evaluation is just another example of where there is a gender gap. 
Develop your self belief muscle 
My conclusions from this week’s musing? Us girls need to get a grip. We need to raise our vibes, stand tall and step into our power. How can we expect someone else to believe in us if we don’t fully believe in ourselves? We need to exercise our self-belief muscles so we can blow our own trumpets louder with our heads held high. 
This is an exercise I tried a couple of years ago. I committed to the following for 4 weeks to develop my self-belief muscle and it helped to move me the needle and get into better habits. Perhaps it’s something you might want to try for May 
1) Making a note of at least 3 things you’ve achieved towards your goals each day however small 
2) Reflect at the end of each week on the distance travelled 
3) Record the achievements in one place so you can see the accumulative effect 
Let me know if you’re going to give it a go. 
Lisa x 
FAB Business Club : female authentic ballsy 
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