The Real Reason Women Aren’t Advancing in Leadership



When I first started speaking and coaching (10 years ago this month!), the main thrust of my opportunities came from companies and leaders dealing with conflict between generations.

Less than a year into this work, I began receiving requests to address, “Why seasoned women won’t help younger women.” This led me to reading a dozen or so books on the topic. My personal favorite: Tripping The Prom Queen by Susan Shapiro Barash.

It’s a great book – check it out!

That said, ten years in business could not have prepared me for what I discovered as I walked into a conference center, where I was to speak that day.

As I approached the table to pick up my name badge, I felt myself tense up. Getting the jitters before speaking is quite normal, but this was different.

I literally heard myself think, “What business do I have being here?”

That’s an odd question, I thought, and started paying attention to what was going on around me, and inside my head.

The ballroom doors had not yet opened, leaving the hallways filled with a couple hundred people, chatting and shopping with local venders. That’s normal. So, what gives?

Name badge in hand, I walked past the business owners, and rushed into the ballroom. This was not normal behavior for me. I enjoy getting to know the folks in my audience.

“What is it?” I questioned myself.

“These men think I’m supposed to be getting their coffee, not standing on this stage,” echoed through my mind, as I struggled to figure out why it was there.

I did not grow up hearing that message, and yet it was there, loud and clear. Why?

As I prepared to go on stage, a barrage of similar thoughts continued to eat at me. I found myself irritated that they didn’t want to hear what I had to share. But, they did, right? That’s why they hired me.

Moments before I went on stage, it occurred to me that they were not the ones to put these thoughts in my head. I was the one thinking them.

While I am deeply curious about the origin of those thoughts and how they got embedded in my subconscious mind, I’m more interested in the thoughts and actions that will strengthen my own belief in women as leaders.

Of course, such beliefs always begin with oneself. I wonder what will happen for women in leadership as I confront these thoughts, and replace them with the truth: I am a woman with valuable insights… a woman who leads.

Because the real truth is that women aren’t advancing in leadership because we don’t believe they should, or could effectively, lead. Changing such beliefs take time, courage, and persistence – I’m in! Are you?



Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

2 thoughts on “The Real Reason Women Aren’t Advancing in Leadership

  1. Kevin Frick

    Other than myself, my entire leadership is made up of women–strong women at that. And I do everything I can to promote their success. This entry gives me a lot to think about as I try to help them raise the bar for themselves–what are the hidden barriers, the voices that they hear that I do not, that might be holding them back? And how can I identify these and help them move past these to maximize their chances of success and ultimately my chance of success. Thanks for sharing!

    • MIsti Burmeister

      Hi Kevin,

      I’m eager to hear their thoughts on this post – be sure to listen because the podcast is powerful.

      I’d love to hear what thoughts they catch themselves thinking – is also appreciate hearing the ones you (and other men) unknowingly think.

      Awareness is powerful!


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