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Why having an 'unentitled mindset' is holding you back in the workplace

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The many efforts to eradicate outdated beliefs and biases against women continue until today but a recent study on Women At Work found that there is something more deeply rooted at play. Research from The Female Lead reports that after years of gender inequality, women have formed an "unentitled mindset."

The unentitled mindset refers to "the way women have been conditioned to feel less entitled than men in all aspects of their lives," as defined by The Female Lead. This mindset has caused a growing "entitlement gap" between women and men. And it has been preventing women's careers from flourishing from negotiating increased pay to putting themselves forward for promotions.

Despite a greater push for female empowerment is the “entitlement gap” what's holding you back?

Key Findings

The study, which was chaired by Cambridge University psychologist Dr. Terri Apter and a separate survey commissioned by LinkedIn has found five areas depicting the unentitled mindset and how it blocks women's career progression:

1. Flexible Work

Flexible work is very beneficial for women, especially for mothers who have to take care of their children and families while working. However, women find it difficult to ask for a more convenient work arrangement because it's treated like a sign of weakness as a worker.

Working with a flexible schedule tags woman as though they are not equal to a regular employee. Flexible work is seen as a special treatment. In the study, female participants reported such attitudes are triggered even though the flexible arrangement in question was small and only removed overtime.

What's more, this penalty follows women even after the arrangement has ended. This attitude towards flexible arrangements, in turn, made women less inclined to ask for it in the future; thus reinforcing the belief that they don't deserve to ask for such benefits.

2. Raises and Promotions

Asking for increases in salary and discussing promotion are some of the most difficult conversations working women have to face with their managers. The study found unlike men, women worry over the timing and execution being perfectly right because it feels as though their request is too much or may offend the other party.

This heavy emotional analysis that women go through comes from an ‘unentitled mindset’ according to the report the constant worrying about how the other party will perceive the request prevents many women from negotiating.

The study also found that 44% of the surveyed women feel uncomfortable asking for a promotion, compared to the 35% of men.

That difference shows just how much women perform additional emotional preparation to make sure every detail is perfect. It's fueled by the insecurity and doubt that women have to work through, before summoning the courage to ask for what they deserve.

3. Maternity Leave

When women go through pregnancy, the process is life-changing, especially in the area of their careers. Whether returning from maternity leave or having been a working mom for years, your experience at work can be different from that of your child-free co-workers.

For many women in this position, they have to frequently deal with stereotypes that call into question their business proficiency, dedication and desire to succeed. The report highlighted that many women felt that any talk of promotion just stops once they have come back from maternity leave, it's as if coworkers believe that they would not be able to assume the same responsibilities they had prior to taking maternity leave. This hidden barrier results in opportunities being steered away from returning mothers impacting their chances of promotion and salary increments.

Moreover, the study found that these beliefs were reaffirmed due to the lack of mothers in senior management. This led to women who have not had children to view that having children has considerable impact on their success. This reinforces women's own beliefs that success in their careers would mean choosing between being a mother or being a career woman, but not both.

4. Care Responsibilities

The report also found that by the age of 33, many women have lowered their career expectations, citing having children and the perceptions of their career motivations adding to their increased mental load and the reason they are not a suitable candidate for promotion and career advancement.

Even with a supportive spouse helping take care of the children, women still assume a bigger portion of child care. This additional set of responsibilities reiterates how women consider having kids as a significant choice between their career and personal life.

Working mothers, as a result, feel less entitled to their careers. It contributes to the unentitled mindset that may cause women to feel as though they can only have a career if they are the ones who are also taking care of their children.

5. Overlapping Biases

When combined with bias regarding race, disability, religion, and sexuality, women reported experiencing a stronger overt bias toward them. And any resistance from women is met with a strengthened opposition coming from the other biased party.

One cited example in the study was when younger women demonstrated confidence in their expertise at work and denied help from male co-workers. This came off as an offense to the men because they believed that the young women needed their help and should have been happy to accept their offer. This example shows how overlapping biases, like age bias and gender bias, try to mold female workers and reinforce the unentitled mindset.

So, what can be done about this disparity? The report provided several recommendations and highlighted that closing the ‘entitlement gap’ required a multifaceted approach: that calls out embedded societal, cultural and workplace structures that prevent women from achieving their optimal selves. Promoting greater self-awareness and empowering women to remove internal barriers that stymie them from developing a healthy sense of their entitlement.

“If women expect less, then they will not complain about having less. Once you know about the ‘unentitled mindset’, you will see it everywhere – from ‘manspreading’ on the train, to women’s unequal domestic load, and in the huge amount of unpaid female work globally,” Dr. Apter adds. “The ‘unentitled mindset’ is firmly part of our patriarchal structures and by calling this a ‘mindset’ we should not suggest that the problem lies entirely within women’s heads.”

Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing.  By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career.  The world is your oyster, and it starts with you. 

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