According to a survey among corporate women conducted for the book The Most Powerful You, author Kathy Caprino indicates that the top three power gaps for women are: i) their reluctance to ask for what they deserve; ii) losing sight of their thrilling dream for their life, and iii) isolating themselves from influential support.
I sat down with Caprino, who is career and leadership coach, writer, speaker, and trainer dedicated to the advancement of women in business, to glean insights on how bravery and power can help women’s career advancement. Here’s a record of our conversation:
Helping women through ‘Brave Pathways’
A decade into Caprino’s work with hundreds of professional women, she felt compelled to answer two key questions:
- What’s missing in the lives of professional women that’s contributing to the deep challenges they face in their careers and business?
- How can coaching address these challenges to ensure they can experience a true breakthrough and finally thrive at work?
Caprino says she learned the answers to these key questions over the last 15 years as a career coach, and they boiled down to women needing to embrace both power and bravery.
Power — Power is simply the fortitude to “act as the true author in one’s life” and to have “the ability to speak, ask, connect, challenge, and serve with greater confidence, strength, and impact.” In her research, Caprino found seven power gaps that commonly hold women back. In fact, she found that 98% of women experience at least one of these gaps, with more than 75% dealing with three or more at the same time:
- Gap #1: Not recognizing their special talents, abilities, and accomplishments
- Gap #2: Communicating from fear, not strength
- Gap #3: Being reluctant to ask for what they deserve
- Gap #4: Isolating themselves from influential support
- Gap #5: Acquiescing instead of saying STOP! to mistreatment
- Gap #6: Losing sight of their thrilling dream for their life
- Gap #7: Allowing past trauma to define them
Bravery — Simply, bravery is the requirement that women dig deep to uncover “the courage to examine what isn’t working in [their] lives, to take full accountability for what [they] can change, and to walk through the fear, confusion, and doubt to take proactive steps and make the critical changes necessary,” Caprino explains. She frames the skills necessary for this deeper journey as:
- Brave Sight — See ourselves more clearly and recognize that we have more power, impact, confidence, and strength than we realize.
- Brave Speak — Change how we’re communicating, strengthen it, and stop weakening our messages and opinions… or apologizing for them.
- Brave Ask — Learn how to ask for help and also for what we want and deserve in a way that will pave the way for us to get it.
- Brave Connection — Start networking more powerfully, and network up by building a support network of influential mentors, sponsors, and “ambassadors” who can open doors and make introductions that we can’t make on their own. It also involves “bringing yourself to market” in exciting ways; for example, by demonstrating our talents and achievements in a compelling fashion on LinkedIn.
- Brave Challenge — Recognize where mistreatment is happening, and finally, do something concrete about it.
- Brave Service — Take steps to start doing work that is more meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling and that also leverages all their gifts and talents in new ways that can be of service to others. Take micro-steps that allow us to bring forward what we’re most passionate about.
- Brave Healing — Proactively address and heal our past pain, challenges, and trauma that is holding us back today, including those “dirty little secrets” that make us feel like imposters at work.
Impact of the pandemic on women
Unfortunately, Caprino has seen the progress of women’s advancement move backward during the pandemic, especially around being reluctant to ask for what they deserve. Now with the pandemic crisis adding to their workload and stress level and its impact on the economy, women are even more uncertain about asking their employers for promotions and raises, and their spouses and partners for the help they need at home, as they juggle all the added responsibility required in parenting, remote schooling of children, elder care, and more.
To help women — and caretakers in general — cope with the added stress of expanded family responsibilities, Caprino outlines specific strategies leaders need to take to help employees reach their highest potential within the organization by creating thriving work cultures that are adaptive and flexible and have psychological safety and inclusiveness at their core.
In terms of what women can do to find bravery and power while juggling additional home and work demands, Caprino advises to write down the 20 most inspiring accomplishments and achievements they’ve made in their life or career thus far that make them most proud. Then, they should leverage those skills and accomplishments to be the foundation of how they talk about themselves, their work, and their brand even during this difficult time.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on our lives, it’s given us more time to reflect and invest in ourselves, Caprino says. As she recommends, I too encourage women to use this time to invest in ourselves. Identify and analyze one to two gaps that are blocking the creation of a more rewarding, successful, and impactful career and life.
Let’s then take action to address these gaps so that we can emerge and embody the most powerful version of ourselves, post-pandemic.