In the pursuit of self-development and career growth, there are many avenues open to today’s professional women. Far more than at any other time in history, businesswomen today have access to an astounding array of courses, mentors, coaches and even scholarships to build skills and expand their professional toolkits.
Yet, surprisingly, many of these resources are under-utilised. For example, oftentimes women miss out on scholarship opportunities simply because they fail to nominate each other or self-nominate.
Why is this so? We’ve come up with a list of possible reasons why women, at times, don’t nominate for scholarships.
1. We Think Someone Else Will Win
Sometimes women fail to nominate each other or themselves because they feel the winner is already a given or has been chosen—even way before the results are known. We’ve all had that colleague who seems to have or do it all. That can be really intimidating! So why bother nominating another candidate if there is little or no chance that she will win? You ask yourself, “Doesn’t that set her up for disappointment?” This kind of thinking can lead to fewer votes and a less diverse distribution of nominations.
However, we should be careful of “reading minds” when we make such assumptions. The actual goals of the judging panel are likely to be quite varied. Just because one candidate seems strong does not guarantee that the panel will choose that person, or that person fits their criteria better compared to other nominees. Perhaps they are looking for someone who could better benefit from growth. And regardless, having the added exposure and flagging your interest can only benefit any businesswoman in the long run.
2. We Assume Someone Else Will Nominate
Maybe you know of an especially strong candidate that you think should win, say, a scholarship in a prestigious business program. She works hard, has a great mind for creativity and curiosity, and exemplifies all the qualities you think the “chosen one” should have. In fact, she is so great, obviously everyone will nominate her! Right?
That may or may not be correct. Thinking that not being able to nominate is alright because others will probably nominate that person could derail a candidate’s chances. Think of it this way: What if others think the same way as you do? What a shame if this promising woman misses out on a great opportunity just because you left the responsibility to others and became assuming to a fault.
3. We Think Our Vote Doesn’t Matter
These days it has become easy for people to believe that the system is just too big to take notice of one person or nomination. That attitude can occasionally spillover into our professional development, much to the detriment of our teams and colleagues.
Getting frustrated and simply abstaining from the process doesn’t help anyone. Yes, in some cases, for example, extremely large-scale scholarships, there may be hundreds or even thousands of nominations and votes. But every vote still counts. And the real importance lies in your willingness to keep playing a role, no matter how big or small. As they say, you don’t get to 100 without getting to 10 first.
4. We Feel Competitive
Occasionally, although we are never proud to admit it, people fail to nominate each other out of a feeling of competition. Getting ahead can be hard! A 2013 study indicated that women exhibit an indirect form of aggression toward each other which is a combination of “self-promotion…and derogation of rivals.” Many of us have developed a sense that we must fight tooth and nail to get where we are going. Sometimes we allow that to make us insecure about advancing a colleague.
Yet this kind of thinking is inaccurate. It comes from a false concept of limited supply on success. Rather than holding each other back, we should recognise that we are stronger as a team! When we lean on each other, build our networks, and see each other as valuable sources of help and guidance, everyone has a better chance of winning, one way or another.
5. We Feel Uncertainty
Women can also be plagued by excessive feelings of uncertainty. Generally speaking, females have a tendency to be fairly considerate of others. Sometimes, we are this way to a fault. This uncertainty may prevent us from nominating colleagues because we are unsure of how they will react to the nomination. Perhaps winning it could be a burden on them? Maybe they won’t like the spotlight?
There is a very simple solution to this: communication. Studies show that men tend to be more direct in their workplace communication whereas women might have a “softer style of communicating.” Occasionally we let that gentler approach slide into avoidance. Before you let uncertainty prevent you from giving a colleague a shot at advancement, talk to her. Ask her if she might be interested and clarify your concerns. Encourage her if she feels modest.
6. We Procrastinate, Forget, or simply Become too Busy
Sometimes we forget to help each other out simply because the lives of business and professional women are incredibly busy. As we frantically try to balance our careers with our homes and our families, inevitably things get lost in the shuffle. As much as you would like to see your colleague succeed, it simply didn’t rate above preparing for your big meeting or making your deadline.
While we never want to sabotage our own success, helping each other out is part of a healthy life balance. Successful businesswomen know the value of finding the right life organisation tool to keep them on schedule and to properly divide their time. Make sure to include time to support others to promote each other’s success every now and then.
Finally, don’t forget that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” No one ever said that success was guaranteed from the start. A strong professional woman knows that persistence pays off. Past failures are not indicators of future results. As proof, Behind Closed Doors’ 2017 Adelaide Luminaries Scholarship was awarded to a professional who won it at her third attempt!
Think of the particularly talented young professional women in your network. You know how hard they work. You know of their achievements, goals and dreams, as well as their obstacles. How can you help them advance? How can you help them get closer to their goals?
Nominating a colleague for a potentially life-altering scholarship doesn’t take very long and doesn’t involve much effort. But you can potentially make a world of difference if you do it. Behind Closed Doors regularly has open scholarship programs. Judging is in progress for our Adelaide Executive Assistant Scholarship and the Perth Luminaries Scholarship which provides access to professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking to businesswomen who aspire to gain executive roles.
As a leading organisation in providing professional development and support for businesswomen, behind closed doors is a source of scholarships and other ways to promote your professional colleagues. Your nomination is all it takes or, nominate yourself!
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