Women and the Second Layer of Pressure

“Work would be easy if it weren’t for the people!” We have all heard variations of this quote and depending on the day or person, this is perhaps true. On the other hand, we wouldn’t love our work without people. Often, it is our interactions, our connections, the adrenaline rush of achieving something massive together, the opportunity to make an experience unforgettable for someone; that gives us the sense of meaning, fulfillment and achievement.

The common thread in both scenarios are the people. And with people comes emotions and it’s the combination of people + emotions + Pressure that can make things interesting. Smart, talented, capable people who work hard and are dedicated, can start to feel stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed and under valued under relenting pressure. And although the frustration is justified, it is in how their emotions show up and their associated distorted thinking that sabotages their best efforts and blocks the capacity to lead and perform as they know they can.

Research conducted at the Institute for Health and Human Potential on over six thousand females to support our New York Times bestselling book, Performing Under Pressure, The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most (Crown, 2015), found that women face a significant second layer of pressure in the workplace that has the potential to diminish their influence and their careers. They can feel alone as the only woman on a team, senior or not, and whatever style they use may not fit the established norms. They face a juxtaposition of both being underrepresented and thus less supported, yet simultaneously being more visible than men and garnering more attention simply on the basis of being female (because there are so few in the room). This creates a pressure where ‘more’ feels on the line with every decision they make or behavior they engage in.

And yet, current research in the field of neuroscience has shown that women have a brain based difference that predisposes them to weigh more variables, consider more options, see more context and visualize a wider array of solutions and outcomes to a problem when they or their organizations are under pressure. Research has shown that organizations which leverage this unique strength of decision making and have more women in top leadership positions, have stronger relationships with customers and shareholders, and a more diverse and profitable business. Also, they outperform the competition in every measure of profitability: equity, revenue, and assets.

Unfortunately, many companies do not leverage this unique contribution of women as fully as they should. Though the reasons can be complex, often it is because of female underrepresentation in organizations or because of the pervasive, negative effects of pressure.

After studying 120,000 subjects over the past 15 years to determine the impact of pressure on performance and leadership, IHHP’s research clearly demonstrates that one of the great differentiators of high performance and effective leadership, is not IQ or technical expertise, but how well an individual manages their thinking and their emotions so that in the moments that count they are better able use their experience, their expertise and capabilities.

Join me (Sara Ross) in the pre-conference workshop on Friday, November 11th, as I take you through the Science of Emotional Intelligence to build and strengthen skills to manage and leverage emotions under pressure. The insights and strategies you learn will help you deal with the second layer of pressure women face and allow you to leverage your brain-based differences. You will also learn to utilize emotional intelligence to coach others to drive engagement, increasing agility and build a more emotionally connected cultures – all in the service of meeting customer needs and driving results.

Join Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry of IHHP for his keynote on Saturday, November 12th in which he will share the latest research and neuroscience, demonstrating why more women are needed in leadership. JP will offer insights and strategies to help female leaders perform and lead more effectively to overcome the second layer of pressure and increase their confidence when approaching their most difficult pressure moments.