Challenges Faced By Women That Make Them More Vulnerable At Work

Hira Ali, author and Forbes contributor, shares her research discovery of internal barriers that women experience on their way to the top and the similarity of those faced by minorities. Read the full article by Forbes here.

Internal barriers refer to the internal constraints and barriers facing any individual. While researching for her book, Hira Ali conducted a survey on 300 women around the world and revealed an interesting discovery: Many of these internal barriers that women experience on their way to the top are similar to those faced by minorities.

These barriers include impostor syndrome, FOMO (fear of missing out), minority stress, perfectionism, stereotype threat, inability to self-promote and step up, fear of failure, fear of judgement, and fear of vulnerability. Traditionally, both women and ethnic minorities are accustomed to being ignored, trivialized, and debased. BAME women especially, being in double minority, face twice the roadblocks.

The Grey Area survey designed to capture the experience of ethnic minority men and women working in the public and private sector revealed that more than 50% of respondents have experienced unconscious or conscious bias at work. Many others suffer from impostor syndrome, stereotype threat, shadeism, minority stress, lack of confidence and self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of vulnerability, fear of failure, tokenism bias, accent bias, and other limiting mindsets. Nearly 57% of the participants surveyed shared that their company does not provide them with opportunities to communicate these barriers holding them back, and nearly 62% believed that their ethnic background had played a role in missing a pay raise, promotion, key assignment, or chance to get ahead.

Here are some of the common internal challenges shared by both women and ethnic minorities:

  • Minority Stress
    Minority stress is the chronically high level of stress stigmatized minority groups experience that may be caused by poor social support, interpersonal prejudice, and discrimination in a social environment.

  • Impostor Syndrome
    The less you are able to relate to people around you, the less confident and competent you tend to feel. According to Valarie Young, the world’s leading impostor syndrome expert, the syndrome “can rattle the confidence of even the most qualified, knowledgeable, or talented among us.” This pressure is especially intense in critical and highly stress-inducing situations.

  • Perfectionism
    Stereotypes magnify low self-esteem, which in turn triggers the need to exceed expectations and hold oneself accountable to very high standards. Perfectionism is not just a women-specific issue but also a multicultural one, wherein the need to excel, prove oneself, and be "perfect" is entrenched in the mindset of minorities struggling to live up to expectations. 

  • Self-Promotion Gap
    Lack of self-esteem and confidence further discourages minorities from advocating for themselves, expressing their talents, and showcasing their achievements in case they are labelled as "braggarts" or as trying too hard. And because the latter are reluctant to self-promote, they are often viewed as lacking self-confidence.

  • Fear of Failure and Vulnerability
    People from marginalized groups are often afraid of putting their vulnerability out in the open. Vulnerability is typically considered a weakness, hence members of marginalized groups will do anything they can to avoid the appearance of not being "strong enough."

Click here to read the full article by for Forbes.
Hira Ali is an author, writer, speaker and executive coach focused on women’s and ethnic leadership development, closing the gender gap and breaking the glass ceiling.

Image source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels.com

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