Many women have been socialised over decades in a female gender role which encourages them to be supportive, not to speak up and to defer to a male decision maker. We are encouraged to be pretty, attractive, sexy and basically looked at and admired so it is hardly surprising that many women don’t know how to move past this stereotype and create new behaviours and expectations for themselves that allow them to more past some of the limitations of our traditional gendered roles.
In the workplace this can reduce their effectiveness, and may hinder their ability for promotion. This is often more evident in non managerial roles where the role dictates that you are a supporter and not a leader. In my Gender and Diversity work, I often hear managers say that women are given every opportunity to ‘step up’ but they just don’t and I think that some of this is due to that socialisation and the women’s own idea of what is expected of her. Just providing the opportunities won’t be enough, we also need to change entrenched behaviours, our own self identity and our own expectations of ourselves as women to really make the change so diversity programs need to be aware of this when they are designed. Unfortunately it is a longer road than many CEO’s will fund, but the pay offs in the long run are worth it for those that can make the leap.