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3 Fears That Hold Working Women Back — And What to Do About Them

Topics: Negotiation

Why do women earn less than men? Our recent examination of the gender wage gap showed that it might have more to do with job choice than discrimination. The reasons behind women’s tendency to choose lower paying jobs are complex, but fear — of negotiating, of bucking societal expectations, even of success — is probably part of the equation. recently started a campaign on Tumblr to get women talking about their biggest fears, and what they would do if they weren’t afraid. Policy Mic compiled a list of the top responses from women who submitted photos or Tweets to the project. Here are three that affect working women most, and how to keep them from holding you back:

1. The fear of claiming success.

One woman submitted the following to the project: “I just got nominated for my second Emmy and I still can’t say that I am a writer.” Women are taught to apologize for being successful, or to offset it by claiming incompetence in other areas.

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What women can do about it: Practice saying “thank you” when you’re complimented, taking credit for your work, listing your accomplishments without apology. It’s not bragging if it’s true, and if you don’t stand up for yourself, who will?

2. The fear of making people angry.

On Policy Mic, Daniela Ramirez quotes one of the Lean In videos, which was submitted by a young girl: “I was always told that being sweet was one of my greatest assets and being nice and polite … how do you figure out the best way to realize that it doesn’t matter if everybody likes you?” Even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and creator of the Lean In movement, says that Mark Zuckerberg told her in her first performance review that her biggest problem was worrying about people liking her.

What women can do about it: Embrace your “bossiness,” and remember the rest of that performance review anecdote — Zuckerberg telling Sandberg that she would never make an impact until she said something that someone disagreed with. Given the backlash post-Lean In, we’d say she’s succeeded.

3. The fear of failure.

This one isn’t unique to women, of course. All people fear failure. The problem is, without risk, there’s no chance of reward. Every successful person you’ve ever heard about took risks before he or she succeeded.

What women can do about it: Think of what you could do if you weren’t afraid. Take calculated risks. Believe in yourself. Don’t apologize for your success.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Tell us your fears. Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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