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women in leadership

Women in Leadership – Thoughts of a Female First-Time Manager


There have been plenty of studies on women in leadership over the last few years. And the findings by McKinsey's women in the workplace study won't come as a surprise:

  • Despite small gains, women are underrepresented across all levels of the corporate ladder. The underrepresentation increases with every step of the corporate management ladder.
  • There is still a “broken rung” at the first step of management, with only 86 women being promoted for every 100 men at the first step to manager.


The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it perfectly, which is also my conviction:

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception.


Now I could dwell on all the responsibilities companies have to rectify this situation for women in leadership. It is out of my control and my time is better spent on looking at what women need to do themselves to close that gap.


Why am I saying this: I believe that becoming a leader is a fundamental identity shift coming along with a new set of skills and styles to suit a role rather than a title. It might be true that integrating leadership into one's identity core is particularly challenging for women, but it can be done.


I started my career as an engineer and managed to step up the first rung to manager. Now I find myself the only woman at the table among my management peers. And this led me to make some interesting observations on what I think women in leadership and those who want to become one need to know.

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Women Leadership – The Road to Your Progress

women leadership


There is often a lot of limiting internal dialogue involved, like “I am not sure I have what it takes” and “I am afraid I will sound stupid”. Would you tell this to a friend who needs a pep talk? Surely not, so why would it be okay to say that to yourself? When those limiting thoughts come up, remind yourself of your achievements and replace this with appropriate positive messages. Confident people have a supporting internal dialogue and belief system. This mindset will shape their behaviors and actions and eventually determine their results.


The lack of confidence in women is often associated with imposter syndrome. Look here for habits to develop to overcome this and boost your confidence.


2. Adopt a Growth Mindset – Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Suppose you want to succeed in a corporate leadership role. You need to be brave. There is no way around this.


Being brave is, to me, equivalent to stepping outside the comfort zone. But what does that mean? I feel this when I have to make difficult decisions and give negative feedback – typical leadership situations. I usually have a strong physical reaction to this – I feel tense, and I would love to run away as quickly as possible. When I do it, despite all of this, I know I leaped out of my comfort zone, and I grew as a person and professional.


Successful people are no strangers to this. However, they have growth mindsets, believing they can actively develop their skills and abilities through personal efforts. Additionally, failure and challenges are seen as learning opportunities and essential to personal development. That is a powerful thing!


To learn more about the growth mindset and how to benefit from it, look at my previous articles: “How to Develop a Growth Mindset for Success” and “The 3 Secrets to Developing Your Success Mindset”.



You need to build a strong network in your company and industry to ensure that you are known and that opportunities come your way. This will help you find mentors and champions essential to career progression and success.

International Association of Women membership
Free work interview preparation for first time manager questions
Career with a View networking event

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  • Zoliswa Mpolweni


    Brilliant article, so relatable and thank you for sharing this with us all.

    September 22, 2022