Is perfectionism holding women back in transportation leadership roles?

Author Ann Wilson Schaef calls perfectionism “self-abuse of the highest order.” It could be a factor in why there are so few women in leadership roles in transportation.

Although it has become more common for companies to promote women into management areas, there is still work to be done to increase the percentage in transportation. For most industries, women comprise over half of senior leaders, but in the trucking industry, we’re at about fourteen percent today.

Sure, trucking has traditionally been a male dominated area, but so were other occupations such as law and medicine that have tilted the numbers into more positive ones for women.

Maybe there are some things we can point to right now that will help us bring more women, and untapped potential, into the trucking industry.

First, be aware that women are less likely to even apply for a higher position, as research by Hewlett Packard found that women feel they must have 100 percent of the job requirements before they will apply. For men, they’ll go for the role if they meet sixty percent of the stated requirements.

Also, research by Babcock and Laschever found that women do not negotiation their salaries, and accept whatever is offered. To add to this dilemma, a 2011 McKinsey report found that women are often promoted based on their accomplishments, while men are promoted for their potential.

Add all this to a traditionally male dominated industry and you’ve got a mixture of women with less confidence in their abilities and a culture that’s not always sensitive to these issues.

Women are typically more prone to perfectionism as learned in childhood. We are the people pleasers who spend more time interacting verbally and focusing on collaboration than our brothers. We are the caregivers. We learned that it’s not nice to brag about our accomplishments and as the minority in this industry, we are aware that we are representing women who will come along behind us once we’ve blazed a trail for them.

So, how does perfectionism harm our careers? Kathy Caprino, a success coach and author, cites five ways this need to be perfect is detrimental to our careers:

1.    You’re difficult to be with as your need to be perfect alienates your co-workers.

2.    You hurt people with your critical and judgmental thinking.

3.    It taints your ability to manage people, as your standard of perfect is what you strive for.

4.    It crimps your creativity, because the creative process makes you uncomfortable.

5.    Your need for perfection pushes people away.

Elizabeth Scott, a stress management expert cites these ways to identify whether you or a colleague are suffering from perfectionism.

1.    Do you set goals and only accept a specific accomplishment? Anything less is failure?

2.    Do you focus on small mistakes and forget the overall task and its goal?

3.    Are you pushing or pulling? Perfectionists are pushed toward a goal through fear of not reaching it, where high achievers are pulled toward a goal with the desire to make progress in the right direction.

4.    Are your standards unrealistic?

5.    Do you become depressed if you fall short of a goal?

6.    Do you procrastinate because you are afraid of failure?

7.    Are you defensive? Perfectionists aren’t as likely to view criticism as a way of making better decisions.

8.    Do you have low self-esteem? Perfectionists are often self critical and unhappy which leads to lower self-esteem.

Author Laura Vanderkam has written numerous books about the traits of successful people. She claims the “key to making myself happy is NOT to be a perfectionist.”

Instead, we need to convince ourselves that it’s okay to apply for a higher position even if we don’t meet ALL of the criteria. We need to start the negotiation process in regard to salaries and benefits before we accept a position and we need to point out our accomplishments and successes to be sure they are noted.

We need to stop expecting perfectionism from ourselves and learn to become more confident in what we can bring to this industry.

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