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You might be your own worst enemy.


You might be your own worst enemy. You might be your own worst enemy.

Key Takeaways

  • Gendered language can reinforce gender inequality and deter women from applying for certain roles. Be confident in your abilities and apply for jobs even if you don't meet 100% of the requirements.
  • Don't sell yourself short. Be prepared to promote yourself and your strengths, including your unique experiences and value.
  • Flexibility in work arrangements is highly valued by many women. You should not have to sacrifice progression or compensation for flexibility.

Did you know nearly two million women left the workforce between 2020 and today? And there's also the fact that women still earn 84% of what their male counterparts earn. It is still evident that when it comes to equality and inclusivity, there is a lot of work to do.

More and more now, employers are aware of the importance of inclusivity in hiring practices with the likes of gender-neutral job descriptions and proper data compliance surrounding protected characteristics. However, some of these meaningful changes can take time and it's equally important for women to be empowered with the knowledge of their natural strengths and perceived weaknesses.

Some points aren't applicable to all female workers, and certainly, some are relevant for men too, but from a statistical perspective, the research we've used shows that as a woman it's likely you could benefit from the advice below.

Be confident in your abilities

It's first on the list because it's definitely one of the most important points—own what you can do! There's a widely-shared statistic (attributed to a Hewlett-Packard internal report) that suggests men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, and women will only apply if they meet 100% of them. Of course, that's a generalization, but the premise is still widely understood.

More often than not, the job post in front of you will overreach. It will have lists of bullet points, paragraphs of descriptions, and when it comes to “Expectations” or “Requirements” the laundry list is daunting. If you know when reading that list that you excel at what you do, don't be put off from submitting your application—even if you don't meet 100% or even 80% of their requirements. Always consider the potential in the role for you and your career.

Don't sell yourself short

Alongside confidence in what you can bring to the table, be prepared to talk proudly about your strengths. According to a study in the National Bureau of Economic Research, even when aware that the score they gave themselves would impact their recruitment/salary, women consistently promoted themselves less than men. In fact, on average the women studied scored themselves 46/100 versus 61/100 for men.

In essence, try not to worry about how you might be perceived by sharing your successes. Do your best to avoid being too humble, or focusing on areas you might feel need improvement, and instead reframe to focus on what you did well. This is especially relevant in quarterly/annual reviews or introductory hiring interviews.

Be aware of gendered language

Gendered language is one that people simply need to be mindful of, rather than taking any particular action. Here's what we mean by that…

In 2011, a series of studies published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology by Gaucher, Friesen & Kay, found that the use of words typically identified as “masculine” perpetuated gender inequality in male-dominated fields. In fact, they found that gendered language didn't just deter women from applying for those particular positions, but that it actually reinforced their perceptions of the types of people who might be suitable for the role.

To put another way, they found that masculine-coded language typically made women feel as though they wouldn't be welcome, but feminine-coded language did not make men feel the same way. Their study identified words such as assertive, confident, competitive, independent, and outspoken as masculine, and words like considerate, cooperative, honest, responsive, and supportive as feminine.

Encouraging awareness around this bias in language can help hugely in changing the way job opportunities are advertised, and knowing this can also help prevent you from being deterred from applying for a role advertised with masculine bias.

Show your female traits

Confidence in your abilities is one thing. But you also need to be confident in your unique experience and value of being a woman. It is not a competition of men versus women, but simply showcasing your added value from the female perspective.

When you apply, highlight what makes you stand out, check the values of the brand that you're applying to, and consider how yours align with theirs. For example, you might feel as though you're at a disadvantage because you're a mother—whereas in reality what that really means is you're highly experienced in multitasking, high-pressure situations, effective communication, and organization. Another might be that where you might once have been considered more emotional, you're actually highly empathetic—a valuable attribute in any sector connecting with people.

We encourage women not to hide their personal traits but to bring them up because so much of the time we are the superwomen!

Know that flexibility isn't a sacrifice

Flexibility—something that has become a much higher priority for everybody over the last couple of years. In our 2021 Talent Insights, we found that women valued flexible work arrangements over career advancement and higher Compensation, (where men ranked each of those three in reverse). Despite that, 98% of all respondents said they wanted to work remotely at least some of the time.

Q: What's most important to you when looking for your next role?


  • Flexible working arrangements: 29.91%
  • Higher Compensation,: 24.90%
  • Career advancement: 14.38%


  • Higher Compensation,: 28.97%
  • Career advancement: 18.91%
  • Flexible working arrangements: 17.51%

Source: Vitamin T's 2021 Talent Insights

Now that each of these is valued so highly, you don't have to compromise. Asking for flexibility in a new contract, or negotiating it in an existing one—for whatever reason—shouldn't come with sacrificing progression or Compensation,.

No matter your gender, we can help find you the perfect role. Check out our latest roles.