In the past, many women have struggled to find acceptance in the workplace because of societal expectations and stereotypes. However, women have made enormous strides in several formerly male-dominated industries and are excelling in leadership roles.

While gender equality has made notable strides, female entrepreneurs still face challenges, and women in leadership roles often encounter more scrutiny, and are judged more harshly, than their male counterparts. Indeed, many women leaders feel they must work twice as hard to earn the same respect as men.

If these challenges sound familiar to you, read on for tips to help you prove your leadership merit in the workplace while inspiring other women to follow in your footsteps.

Why women leaders should leave their comfort zones

A Hewlett-Packard study on internal hiring practices found that men often apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. This finding implies that women subconsciously believe that if they don’t meet the job criteria exactly, they’re not suitable for the position and they won’t be considered. Because of this self-doubt, they don’t throw their hat into the ring.

Changing this belief takes conscious effort. If a position resonates with their capabilities and experience, women should focus on the mindset that they’re entirely capable of doing the work and then prove their merit during the interview process. [Need an interview refresher? Check out our complete guide to a successful job interview.]

Here’s what some experts have to say about the importance of women aiming high:

1. Recognize the fear, and do the hard thing anyway. Devoreaux Walton, owner of Distinct Personal Branding, believes success is found outside our comfort zone but is often hindered by the fear of the unknown. According to Walton, the best way to overcome fear is to acknowledge that the fear is there but to do the thing that scares you anyway.

2. Women are socialized to be perfect. Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, said that while girls are taught to play it safe, smile pretty and get all A’s, boys are taught to play rough and swing high. “In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave,” she said in a TED talk. Even when women are ambitious, the socialization of perfection often leads them to risk aversion, Saujani said.

3. Don’t miss out on opportunities that come your way. Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angi (formerly Angie’s List), advises not to miss out on opportunities that come your way. “Put yourself in a position to have those opportunities; know when one is facing you, and take it,” she said.

Women should embrace their natural leadership styles

For women entering the workforce, Attuy recommended leading by example while being open, supportive and collaborative. Look for, bond with, and become a mentor and role model for other women. Advancements such as the #MeToo movement have ignited discussions, but there are still many barriers to overcome.

Emily He, former chief marketing officer at Saba Software and now corporate vice president of business applications marketing at Microsoft, discovered that women are driven more by intrinsic motivations about work than by what their jobs or employers demand from them.

“In contrast to men, who tend to be career-centric and want to maximize their financial return from work, women view work more holistically, as a component of their overall life plan,” He said. “Therefore, they’re more likely to approach their careers in a self-reflective way and value factors such as meaning, purpose, connection with co-workers and work-life integration.”

Positive workplace culture shifts, including improved employee retention and better cooperation, can occur when women bring these intrinsic strengths to their teams and businesses. Most importantly, the next generation of leaders of all genders can move forward with enlightened perspectives.

As people work toward gender equality in their workplaces, the gender gap will close over time. “The big challenge is to keep our perspectives top of mind in conversations at the corporate level, and also among family and friends, so the mindset shift can happen,” Attuy said. “Be resilient that change will come.”

Tip: Business leaders of all genders can help promote equality in the workplace by acknowledging the unique strengths of women leaders, facilitating their professional development, and creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Use data to make decisions

Women are excellent decision-makers, often using data to make informed decisions. According to a McKinsey & Company report, companies with women in executive positions have a 21% chance of outperforming companies where such gender diversity is low. Organizations should therefore empower women to use data-driven decision-making methods and provide them with the tools and resources necessary to succeed.

Foster a culture of mentorship

Organizations can play a critical role in advancing women into leadership positions through mentorship programs. According to a Harvard Business Review article, having a mentor in the workplace can significantly influence an individual’s career growth and success.

Organizations can foster a culture of mentorship by pairing up-and-coming leaders with more experienced professionals. Additionally, organizations can create opportunities for women to connect with mentors who can provide guidance, support, and feedback. This can help women develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in leadership roles.

Promote work-life balance

Promoting a work-life balance is crucial for everyone, but it’s especially important for women who are often expected to take on the majority of household and caregiving responsibilities. Organizations can support work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, providing parental leave, and creating a culture that values and respects the need for balance.


The workplace can pose unique challenges for women leaders, but with the right mindset and the right strategies, women can overcome these challenges and succeed. Organizations can also play a crucial role in supporting women leaders by promoting gender equality, providing opportunities for leadership development, and fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. As women continue to break barriers and assume leadership roles, it’s important for everyone to support and celebrate their success. Remember, diversity in leadership isn’t just good for women—it’s good for business. By encouraging more women to step up and lead, we’re creating a more equitable, innovative, and successful future for everyone.