A new study out of the Technical University of Munich shows that women are less likely to apply for jobs that include words like "assertive", "independent", "aggressive" and "analytical," opting instead for job postings that use words like "dedicated", "responsible", "conscientious" and "sociable." Men, on the other hand, were happy to apply for jobs in both categories.
The complete study has not yet been released, but the preliminary results show that while female job applicants feel that they don't qualify for jobs that require assertiveness or independence, everyone else thinks they do. The study's authors found that Americans of both genders considered women and men to be equally competent, productive and efficient. However, women believed that they, themselves, as well as other women, had less capability when it came to leadership skills.
This is something women can and should fix. Stop underestimating your own skills. Stop underestimating the skills of other women. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Companies want to hire women in areas where they are under-represented. Many companies have "affirmative action plans" and report when they have too few women or minorities in particular positions. These are based not on the direct make up of the population, but on the number of qualified people for any particular job. So, if 50 percent of the qualified accountants in your town are female, but your company has only 30 percent female accountants, the company will be conscious of this and actively seeking to "fix" it. However, because, according to this study, women are screening themselves out, companies that are desperate to hire women may give you preference. Apply and you might be surprised.
Don't take job hunting personally. Many people find job hunting to be stressful and downright painful. But, we do it anyway because we need to eat. It's not an evaluation of your worth as an individual. It's an evaluation of whether you are the best person to do the job and if you want to work for this particular company. So, try to distance your emotions from the process.
Remember, the "perfect candidate" doesn't exist. If you don't feel that you're "assertive" enough, apply anyway. For all you know, you're more assertive than the other five qualified candidates. While you shouldn't apply for jobs you're wildly unqualified for, you should apply for jobs that you're not perfect for, because no one is perfect for any job. One quality in a list of ten probably won't make or break the deal.
Stop underestimating yourself. Today's women are more likely to graduate from college than today's men, and women just passed men in the number of people receiving PhDs. Stop thinking you can't do something. And women in leadership positions--stop thinking you're an exception. You're not. You're normal and so are the women applying for jobs to work for you.
Don't whine. Do. If you feel like it's unfair that you don't have your dream job, realize that not everyone has their dream job. Instead of sitting back, feeling sorry for yourself, go out and do it. If you lack "analytical" skills, work on that. If you feel you're not independent or aggressive enough, get a mentor and learn how to develop those traits. Don't sit around waiting for someone to hand you a perfect job description. Make yourself into the type of business person you want to be.