Busting the myths that drive women to work harder

Busting the myths that drive women to work harder

In Business, Coaching and Success by Julie Ann CairnsLeave a Comment

We’re taught that we should work harder and make sacrifices to get ahead in life. But what if we could break this thought cycle?


You have to work hard for your money

We’ve all heard this countless times. And for women, this phrase comes with an additional, unspoken layer of belief: we must work even HARDER.

Indeed, it seems to be the way things often turn out. In the US and Australia, there’s a glaring gender pay gap and women face implicit bias that can cause this gap to grow over the course of a career. So the knee-jerk reaction is to work harder and to go to all out to be not just as good as, but better than men in order to keep up.

I definitely experienced this in my own career, while working in the male-dominated funds management industry. Not only did I feel that I had to work harder, and to be more competent than my male counterparts. I felt that I had no choice but to quietly put up with some misogynistic behaviour along the way.

My response to that was to grow a thick skin, get on with being tougher, better, smarter. I even became more masculine in my own behaviour and energy as a protection mechanism to avoid being objectified. It got to the point where I pretty much stopped wearing skirts for a couple of years!

On top of the somber material implications of gender imbalances in the workplace, this dynamic can wreak havoc on women’s self-esteem, their sense of feminine power, and even their identity.

But what if we decided against this entire paradigm? Gender biases may be real within the current paradigm, but what if we choose to switch paradigms ourselves?

To do that, we have to loosen the hold of our limiting beliefs.

What if it were fully possible for women to feel and be successful in a way that attracts wealth without the daily grind of ‘harder’ work… the sort of grind that often feels like a never-ending hamster wheel? I believe it is possible and in alignment with one of the messages of the #metoo movement. I believe that in order to do this we first have to acknowledge the problem.

The notion of ‘deservingness’

We’re taught to respect those who have worked hard for what they have, and we’re invited to believe that there’s something noble in that which one has sweated and sacrificed for. We’re encouraged to put in an ‘honest day’s work’ for an ‘honest day’s pay’.

The implication is that good people – honest people – work hard. And that working hard for your money and making the many sacrifices this implies is the only legitimate way to succeed.

In the same vein, we’re conditioned to see a cause and effect relationship between doing things that other people value and receiving material rewards. Thus prosperity and financial success are tied to our sense of being ‘good enough’. To what we deserve.

If we enjoy the blessings of material or financial abundance, others will sometimes question whether we have done something ‘worthy’ to deserve it. We internalise this layer of judgement, too.

Women in particular have internalised the judgement.

Questions tend to plague us, such as, Should I be home with my kids instead of at the office? And, Now that I’ve taken time off from work for my family, have I lost some of my value as a team member? This thought process makes us doubt our own deservingness of success and parity. So, we lower our heads and allow those raises and promotions to pass us by. Or we roll up our sleeves, grit our teeth and work harder just to be good enough. Just to be worthy.

In a self-fulfilling prophecy, our colleagues – both male and female – come to expect this.

A vicious cycle ensues, based on the assumption that our worth is determined largely by our work. Determined by its quantity rather than just its quality. But what if our worth is not determined by the quantitative measures of our work? What if it can’t be measured in hours or in dollars? And why do we have to justify any prosperity that may flow into our lives by limiting it to the kind that comes from hard (or harder) work?

The notion that we do is a conditioned response. A mental trap. A myth.

Why can’t we embrace all the ways in which we can flourish and prosper and that don’t necessarily require us to work hard to prove our worth?

All it really requires is the desire and the confidence to step aside from the hamster wheel or off it altogether. To open your eyes to the myriad of ways that exist of tapping into more effortless forms of abundance. Yet this is where most of us get stuck. We fall right back into the trap of feeling we must prove our worth for everything we receive in life.

Breaking the cycle

For women to break the cycle of working harder, they need to release the myth driving us to work so hard in the first place. This is the myth that we have to be some kind of super-woman who can do everything: fulfil all of our roles (daughter, mother, spouse, friend) to perfection and then on top of all that also be some kind of ‘Business Barbie’ creature with just the right look, hair and not-too-strong opinions to succeed in a male-dominated corporate world.

Trying to win that game can be exhausting and soul-destroying.

So I ask my fellow sisters to consider this: what if we just stopped playing that game? What if we completely re-wrote the rules, and made the game our own?


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