It’s Not About A Lack Of Skill But About Embracing Empowering Beliefs

Most of my women clients are caregivers—as mothers, wives and daughters. And so, they tend to feel guilty about their ambitions. Belief in themselves is hard to come by.

* All names mentioned in the article have been changed to respect client confidentiality.

“I don’t want to take a pay cut and accept the offer, but everyone around me is advising me to take up what comes my way,” Tanya* told me over the phone while I was returning home from the New Delhi World Book Fair. “Should I take it up?” She summed up her dilemma and paused.

I have been coaching Tanya for the past three months. She wants to change her industry, and we have been working together on a career transition roadmap.

I wasn’t surprised by the question from the mouth of a woman with fourteen years of experience behind her – eight in the manufacturing industry and six being an entrepreneur in the same setup. During this period, Tanya also upskilled herself by completing an executive MBA for one of the premier institutes in the country. Yet, here she was, confused and unsure. Typical of many women clients I work with.

Knowledge and Skills aren’t the challenges for women; the beliefs are

As an Executive Coach and Personal Empowerment Life Coach, I work with mid and senior-level professionals to enable them to get better at what they do and undertake successful career transitions. 65 of the 140 clients I have coached on a 1-on-1 basis in my ‘Empower Yourself’ Coaching Program have been women, the majority of them working ones. In my 600+ client coaching hours experience, I have observed my female clients having a very distinct set of challenges.

Women are more hesitant to speak up at work vis-à-vis their male counterparts

Most of my women clients seeking guidance on executive communication want me to help them on how to ‘speak their minds’ at work. Like Disha*, a senior telecom professional working in Delhi-NCR who shared at the start of our association, ‘I know I am not a great communicator, and hence don’t speak much in the meetings.’ In contrast, 90 per cent of my male clients tell me they want to ‘speak even better’ or ‘create a more lasting impact.’

The familial and societal upbringing whereby a woman speaking her mind is labelled as ‘arrogant,’ ‘brash’, or a ‘show-off’ plays a role in how women sub-consciously perceive themselves and define their boundaries. Accordingly, the focus on overcoming the deep-rooted, limiting beliefs is more with my women clients.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

It took a month of intense coaching sessions for Disha to start speaking up in meetings and another month for her to finally believe that there was nothing wrong with how she communicated. The resultant confidence also had a positive rub on in her personal life.

Women less willing to take risks; more likely to listen to what others say about their career moves

A career change is a giant leap of faith entailing disruptions and dissonance, and understandably, both males and females invariably hold back on this front. However, the two genders grapple with different concerns.

While my male clients ask me to guide them on ‘how to fully prepare for the transition,’ their female counterparts first enquire about ‘what will people say.’ Ashima* asked me this question in our first meeting. She is a millennial girl who was then working with a Big 4 firm but wasn’t happy with her job. She wanted to change her industry altogether, and during structured coaching discussions, it came out that her biggest fear was that people would call her a fool to quit a job ‘which others dream about.’ Towards the middle of our coaching program, she was convinced that living the dream of others comes with a price and quit her job. Now she is confidently pursuing a new field.

Women are more likely to give up new opportunities and challenges because of guilt

Most of my women clients are caregivers—as mothers, wives and daughters. And so, they tend to feel guilty about their ambitions.

So, while Ashima gave up some exciting opportunities abroad because she ‘needed to be with her mom’ who is widowed and would be alone without her, Riya* struggled with the decision of accepting a promotion that was unexpectedly offered to her because the role entailed a lot of travel and she wasn’t sure ‘who will look after my six-year-old son?’ That her husband’s job was not at all travel-intensive mattered little to her.

On the other hand, Anuj* candidly told me that ‘location and travel are no constraints for me’ while working on a career transition roadmap. The statement is typical of most of my male clients.

Women are less likely to be in charge of their personal finances

Most of my women clients—whether working or non-working— tend to have little ‘money confidence’ and depend on their spouses to manage their finances. ‘I like the freedom that my job provides me, and yet I am scared to handle the money on my own,’ Mona* confessed to me. Towards the end of our coaching program, she was confidently investing the surplus money left in her salary bank account.

Empowering women to overcome their limiting beliefs

‘Empower Yourself’ is not only about applying structured tools and techniques but also about reframing attitudes and outlooks. Over the last two years, I have been fortunate to coach, mentor and empower several incredible women to believe in themselves and consider their own happiness in the scheme of things–Tanya is a recent example.

“Would you be happy if you take up the job?” I asked after listening to her.

“No,” she admitted before continuing, “but my cousin will call me foolish to give it up.”

“And if you take it up, someone else may call you foolish to go for a pay cut after MBA,” I remarked. “Who matters more to you—you or the other people?”

She thought for some time before replying, “Me.” Another pause. “Thank you, Smita. I am feeling much better now.” Tanya made herself—and me—proud by showing courage to wait for the right thing to come her way.

Follow Smita on LinkedIn.

Editor’s Note: For IWD 2023, we’re publishing #MentoringStories in both fiction and non-fiction, for the IWD2023 theme #EmbraceEquity. See all mentoring stories here.

Images source: Smita Das Jain

Liked this post?

Join the 100000 women at Women's Web who get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads - you can also start sharing your own ideas and experiences with thousands of other women here!


About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

41 Posts | 51,487 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories