What’s Holding Women Back?


I recently read an article called “The #1 Thing Holding Women Back in Business.”  I was immediately intrigued by the title and was curious as to what this “#1 thing” might be. I am sure we are all familiar with the whole “women can’t have it all” argument as well as the importance of finding balance in our personal and professional lives. This article, however, took a slightly different approach. Written by Victor Cheng of caseinterview.com, a website designed to help people ace management consulting interviews, the article declared that the single most important thing holding women back from achieving their full potential in the business world is their lack of confidence in their abilities. He spends a lot of time discussing the gap between self-perception and ability that women seem to face on a daily basis. He talks about how women fail to take on “stretch” opportunities that challenge their abilities and help them to grow because they are not confident in their ability to perform well in such situations. The fear of failure prevents them from taking such opportunities and as a result holds them back from receiving promotions, especially in comparison to their male counterparts who are much more likely to take on a project or role that they may not necessarily be qualified for.

Cheng feels that women are chronic under-estimators of their abilities, and unfortunately I think I would have to agree with him. I think that the root cause of this underestimation is a lack of confidence, yet I can’t truly say that I know where this lack of confidence stems from. Perhaps it is a result of societal conditioning, whereby women have grown up with few role models in senior positions to look up to throughout their lives, and have thus come to believe over time that males are somehow better suited or more qualified for these positions. How do we reverse this trend as emerging female businesswomen and leaders? How can we instill a sense of confidence in women around the world so that they feel more capable and are more willing to accept challenges and senior positions? I think one solution ties back to the “lean in” movement and ultimately having a strong support system in your life. In order to feel confident, I think you need to have experienced failure, and most importantly how to recover from it and move on. The best way to do so, I believe, is to have an extremely strong support system around you, and I believe that the “lean in” movement can help facilitate such an environment for emerging female businesswomen. We need to work together to let one another know that it is OK to try something and not succeed right away. In this sense I think in a way failure helps to breed confidence.  What do you think? Check out the article below and let me know your thoughts!


Hailey Vasyliw

University of Toronto


Further Reading: http://www.caseinterview.com/holding-women-back-in-business

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