Sat on the toilet of a work placement for a national newspaper, I discovered that I would be leaving my pursuit of writing for their weekly magazine behind, as I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant with my first child.

With the Pandemic exposing the gender disparities between the sexes, the ingrained gap between men and women was transparent whilst also showcasing all the powerful roles women can play as frontline staff and the often overlooked ‘lesser’ roles – it has been a time to reflect just how much we need to value women.

But the good news is that more women are aspiring to pursue careers in STEM, Coding and are feeling much more ambitious in their careers thanks to the rise in flexible and home working.

The report, released by FutureLearn and YouGov, also found that women have taken more of an active interest in further learning.

I am one of these reinvigorated cohort of women who have been studying further qualifications and pursuing the career (of writing magazine features and creating digital content about the communities I am from with a focus on wellbeing…)  I “gave up” (halted/paused) when becoming a young mum. With more optimism now that you no longer need to be ‘office-based’ or worse still, relocate out of my family bubble of Yorkshire.

Even LinkedIn recently launched an option for ‘stay at home parents’ to explain the vital role parents and carers play in life and work!

Some parents attempting to return to work have opted for the title “homemaker” – a label that LinkedIn provided on the networking site to explain career gaps. Others have improvised, using makeshift titles like “Family CEO” or “Chief Home Officer”.

But there’s still a way to go after years of systemic inequality and stigma.

Resulting in many of us not having the same confidence as men to even identify ourselves as leaders due to the fact that we do not fit the status quo.

Our circumstances and opportunities are often different to men. And we hold ourselves back, through feeling the so-called  ‘”mposter Syndrome.” Whilst it’s not technically a syndrome it is a common feeling of ‘inadequacy’ that a lot of women feel when breaking through ‘glass ceilings.’

This feeling can be deeply ingrained and it’s not about genetics but the society we live and breathe. Consciously and subconsciously we limit ourselves but even when we realise this we get scared to ask for support, as always feel the need to prove and justify our worth.

This can often lead women to fulfil the ‘unwanted’ roles in leadership and in all parts of society as we can feel uncertain about negotiation and asserting our own path.

This vicious cycle for some ‘ambitious’ women like me then leads to us criticising ourselves for not having a voice, not speaking up or dumbing down what we have to say or trying to sound too clever.

I know that as a young working mum-to-be in the media I tried to conceal my pregnancy from certain clients for fear of losing freelance work. Also, the ability to work flexibly has always been important for me personally to manage my health, family and to work smart… and I believe this should be available to all!

Presenti-ism in the workplace costs employers a lot more than absenti-ism i.e. people show up unproductive and slog hours in an office to prove their worth.

This is why we need allies of all sexes and to join together. We were asked some of these thought provoking questions in a power hour talk by Oxford Leadership Project hosted by Wakefield Community Foundation’s Women’s Network:

“Which of these has been your biggest frustration in your career so far?” 

  1. Unable to see yourself as a leader?
  2. Imposter syndrome?
  3. Unable or unwilling to ask for help?
  4. On the edge of a glass cliff?
  5. Kept under a glass ceiling?
  6. Unsure about negotiating for yourself? Being unsure about negotiating for yourself

One theme which was a prevalent is this notion of  ‘imposter syndrome’ that I am sure a lot of us are experiencing as we merge from three lockdowns… not sure how or where we will fit in.

Women’s Fund founder Barbara Paterson, MD of Paterson Consultancy Ltd, says:  “Everyone experiences moments of self doubt where they question their confidence and competence.

“This can sometimes be a good thing and stops us from becoming arrogant  and reckless. If we have unrealistic expectations of our capabilities and set standards way too high we can feel like an imposter if we can’t achieve perfection. We become afraid of making mistakes and this can often stop our ability to stay open minded and keep learning.

“The mindset we choose has an important impact on how we approach problems and see our achievements. Living with a growth mindset (defined in Carol Dwerk’s book “Mindset”)  means we believe there is always a solution to a problem we may just not have got there yet!”

Some of the topics we spoke about (before I had to rush off for the school run!): 

  • See yourself as a leader: unable to see yourself as a leader 
  • Imposter Syndrome: Not recognising the skills you have and not saying things until you’re sure 
  • Unable to ask for help/support
  • “Go get the brews” or disassociate from other women 
  • On the edge of a glass cliff: E.g. Women find themselves in roles nobody else wanted because they’re difficult jobs E.g. Teresa May Brexit Negotiation 
  • Glass ceiling: unable to speak due to lack of confidence – blame ourselves for not speaking up but actually wasn’t all my fault 

What are your thoughts? Read more from Sophie Mei Lan at and

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