Avoiding the Top Mistakes Women Make at Work

Avoiding the Top Mistakes Women Make at Work

By Megan Dalla-Camina, Women Rising Founder & CEO

What we know to be true from supporting and coaching thousands of women in our community is that the challenges and mistakes we see women making are incredibly common - there are distinct patterns that we see over and over again, and when the women in our program connect with one another on our coaching calls, they’re able to see that they are not alone and so many women share similar experiences.

In this article, we cover the top 4 mistakes that we see women make at work. We want to make sure it’s clear from the outset that there are very real systemic problems and biases that lead to these issues, so it is absolutely not that women are to blame. We must continue to fight the systemic issues like gender and age bias that impact how women show up and how they succeed or struggle every day at work.


Letting confidence, our inner critic and imposter syndrome hold us back

What we see in our community, and what is backed up by our 2023 research, is that the biggest challenge that women face at work is a lack of confidence, moments of self doubt and a harsh inner critic. 61% of women said their inner critic was the biggest factor undermining their confidence at work, and 72% of women have experienced feelings of imposter syndrome in the past 18 months.

When it comes to how this impacts women at work, research shows that women tend to hesitate more often, not put themselves forward for a new role or promotion until they have 100% of the skills required, expect to earn less than male peers on graduation, and ask for pay rises four times less often.

But it’s important to know that confidence isn’t a personality trait, it's a skill that you build. Learning to understand your inner critic narrative that stops you from taking the action you want to take – speaking up in the meeting, going for that promotion, or asking for the pay rise – and then interrupting the cognitive distortion by asking ‘Is that true?’ is a proven strategy to turn your thoughts into action, the very definition of confidence. You can get the full strategy in the resources below. For those joining the September Women Rising program, we dive deep into the models that unlock true and lasting confidence.

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Not building our executive presence and communication skills

Another finding of our research is that 63% of women feel they aren’t fulfilling their potential at work. Their careers aren’t progressing as quickly as they would like, 37% feel there’s not enough opportunities to advance, and many others are pigeon-holed into certain roles or told they’re not ready for the next level. One of the factors that can really impact this is your executive presence and communication skills.

Executive presence is about your ability to inspire confidence in those around you - your team members, your peers and critically for your career, it’s inspiring confidence among senior leaders that you have the potential for great achievements. You need to be aware that many important decisions about you and your career will be made when you’re not in the room. Your executive presence will have a direct impact on the opportunities you get access to, so it’s vital that you build it.

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Here are some key things to think about when you’re building your executive presence:

1. Authenticity and self-awareness

  • Embrace genuine qualities and values.
  • Reflect on personal strengths and areas of improvement.
  • Seek feedback and continuously self-evaluate.

2. Decision making and confidence

  • Be confident and demonstrate assertiveness.
  • Stand by decisions and be willing to take risks when necessary.
  • Show resilience during challenging situations and learn from mistakes.

3. Effective communication

  • Articulate ideas clearly and confidently.
  • Listen actively and respond thoughtfully.
  • Practice non-verbal cues like maintaining eye contact, confident posture, and purposeful gestures.
  • Think in headlines – who, what, how, when, why.

You can also read our articles on 3 Things That Determine Your Executive Presence and 5 Tips To Communicate With Power


Not getting the support you need to achieve your career goals

Once you’re clear on what you want for your career, it’s vital that you get the support you need to achieve your career goals. Unfortunately we know that for most women, this isn’t happening. According to the 1200 women we surveyed for our 2023 research, 52% do not have supportive mentors and a staggering 64% do not have supportive sponsors. This lines up with other research which shows that women are drastically under sponsored compared to their male counterparts.

Take a moment now to reflect on this for yourself. Do you have a supportive mentor? Do you have a supportive sponsor? Are there people that come to mind that could fulfill either of these roles for you? What action do you need to take to start consciously cultivating these relationships?

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Not looking after our wellbeing and burning ourselves out

One of the most alarming statistics to reveal itself in our research is that only 8% of women are thriving at work. 42% say they are either surviving, hanging on by a thread, or burnt out and 39% describe themselves as functioning.

78% of women told us they have felt burnt out in the past 18 months. 81% of women experienced increased levels of stress, and 55% of women currently feel at risk of burnout.

If you want to have the career and life that you dream of, it’s essential that you make the time and space to intentionally build your wellbeing. We spend an entire module on intentional wellbeing in the Women Rising program because it’s a foundational pillar that impacts every area of your life, and so often, it’s completely left out of professional development programs. The women inside our community love the intentional wellbeing module because we take a very holistic approach and look at wellbeing through the lens of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. You can register now for our September 2023 intake.

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Tips for Leaders: Support women to build confidence, executive presence, support networks and wellbeing

  • Build Confidence and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome:
    • Encourage open conversations about these issues in team settings.
    • Provide mentorship and guidance to help women challenge their inner critics.
    • Celebrate their achievements and acknowledge their contributions to enhance their self-esteem.
    • Practical exercises and tools can help women tackle their inner critic stories head-on. The Women Rising program is a tested curriculum and coaching program that helps women overcome confidence and inner critic challenges.
  • Foster Executive Presence and Effective Communication:
    • Provide opportunities for women to present and lead meetings to enhance their visibility.
    • Create a culture where diverse communication styles are respected and valued.
    • Offer training programs that focus on communication skills and executive presence. Module 5 of the Women Rising program goes into great detail on these aspects.
  • Support Career Goals through Mentorship and Sponsorship:
    • Advocate for mentorship and sponsorship programs within the organisation.
    • Recognise and promote women who are effectively mentoring or sponsoring others.
    • It’s vital that men also understand the critical role they can play in breaking down the barriers for women and promoting gender balance. The Male Allies program gives men practical tools and skills for how they can be more effective allies, mentors and sponsors.
  • Prioritise Wellbeing and Prevent Burnout:
    • Foster a culture that values work-life balance and overall wellbeing.
    • Lead by example and show that prioritising wellbeing is essential for all team members.
    • Have regular wellbeing check-in conversations with your team members and support them with their workload.
    • Encourage them to take breaks and make sure they have access to resources for stress management, mental health and self-care. Module 6 of the Women Rising program goes through a holistic approach to wellbeing and gives women practical tools and strategies they can implement immediately.

As a leader never underestimate the important role you can play in creating a supportive and empowering environment that enables women to thrive, contribute effectively, and overcome the common challenges they face at work.


Join the Women Rising Program.

If you’d like more practical tools and strategies to help overcome these common mistakes and more, we cover all of these topics in detail in the Women Rising program. We know the evidence-based tools we share in our program work because 98% of our graduates highly recommend the program. If you want to join thousands of women who have taken their career to the next level and unlocked their potential, come and find out more about the Women Rising program.


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