This was the cautious assertion made by a young woman recently.
The answer is: probably, if that’s what you believe because of the consistent explicit and implicit messages you’ve heard about your ability and competencies.
When I went to school – a selective girls’ high school – the classes were full of outstanding, confident students who all excelled at maths and science – not at all aware that they weren’t good at it.
My family moved and I found myself at a coed school where girls comprised 25% of the top maths and science streams. Still, we enjoyed the problem solving, challenge and subject matter and performed on a par with the boys.
My highly educated mother informed my confidence and I never thought I was less able than the boys.
Recent studies have compared girls’ spatial reasoning and mathematical performance in societies across the globe and have found that in matrilineal societies and countries with gender equality, such as Iceland, women’s performance in maths and science was no different to the males.
In patrilineal societies and countries with a large gender divide, the difference was astonishing.
When polled, women say that one of the barriers to career advancement is their ‘lack of confidence or self-belief’, so this research is instructive.
When women are subject to unconscious biases they behave as if the bias is truth.
When women believe they are equal, because they’re treated equally, they perform equally. When they feel they have a legitimate place at the table, are supported, encouraged and valued they excel.
I’ve seen women excel under the strong mentorship and sponsorship of others. Equally, I’ve seen too many highly competent women question their ability because their contribution is unrecognised or not considered as valuable. This is communicated, over time, in subtle ways. They’ve been given less opportunities, or put in roles that have less intrinsic value to the organisation, or are paid less, overlooked for promotions, not listened to or criticised for their style (which in male dominated organisations, is code for ‘not like us.’)
There is growing awareness that the representation of women as decision makers must increase if Australia is to remain globally competitive. The business pages increasingly include articles about the economic necessity of increasing the value and contribution that women make in organisations.
Developing Asian nations get this and fill their executive suites with women as well as men.
Still, some organisations are slow to recognise this truth and some CEOs are blinded by unconsciously out-dated paradigms about women’s roles and contribution.
When we work for organisations that are run by such blind-sided CEOs we are much less likely to achieve our potential, find the confidence to know we can contribute and have what it takes to succeed.
If you recognise your worth, know that you have what it takes to contribute fully and this is reinforced visibly by appointments of other women to the top roles, explicit recognition and appreciation of your ideas and contribution, you know you’re in the right place.
If you don’t, then maybe it’s time to question where you are.