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Self-Sabotage - Why Female Pilots Fail First

When I was approached by 'Women in Defence' to write a blog for the site, I felt that there was something I had that might benefit the readership - 'Learn to take more risk and have less regret'. Having taught many female pilots over the years, I recognised some of the self-doubt that seems to cloud over successful women and, if I could be so bold as to be able to give them some advice, it would be to execute the plan and do the thinking as you go. Too many people spend too much time waiting for the right opportunity that never comes. Push for what you want, help each other on the way and remember - 'a rising tide lifts all boats.’ 

I sense this may resonate with your readers, too - I hope you enjoy the blog, and I welcome any comments.

As a fast jet flying instructor in the Royal Air Force, I have seen many students fail flying training. To get to fly a Typhoon or Tornado fighter jet takes a relentless four years of hard work and every student struggles at some point.

There are no exceptions.

One of the most interesting ways that they will often fail is through their own actions but not in a way you might think; the student being directly responsible for their own poor performance but not through a lack of ability, but a lack of application.

They feel that they are not capable of flying fighter jets - it’s something ‘other people do’.

Self-sabotage is what we do to ourselves when we feel that we are not good enough to attain the success we crave and research has found that women do it significantly more than men.

Often we sabotage our own success because we don’t want to feel like a fake or an imposter. People feel that it's only a matter of time before their friends and colleagues find out that they are really just ‘not that good’.

If you think you are not worthy of the position you are promoted to, you will unconsciously work very hard to bring yourself back down to a level you believe is more ‘you’.

And, in the workplace, this means that women often put themselves below men.

‘Don't become a victim of yourself. Forget about the thief waiting in the alley; what about the thief in your mind?’ - Jim Rohn 

A woman will often not lean forward and contribute during the business meeting and won’t speak out in case she is ridiculed. It’s very common to feel this way, it’s called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and stops people getting to where they feel they want to be

Men negotiate salary increases four times as often as women and women believe they deserve 20% less remuneration for their efforts compared to their male counterpart.

Many people who see a man in a position of authority will describe him as the ‘boss’ but will see a woman in a similar role as ‘bossy’. A man working late is ‘dedicated’, a woman doing the same is ’selfish’.

When Hewlett-Packard were looking at how to get more women into management positions they studied personnel records and found that women at the company only applied for promotion when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. Men, however, would apply when they had met only 60% of the requirements. Under-qualified and inexperienced men wouldn’t think twice about ‘leaning in’ - women only do so when they feel completely assured of their credibility for the role.

As much as Sheryl Sandberg might tell women to ‘lean in’, the glass ceiling has yet to be cracked and there is still a 16% gender pay gap. Britain has the longest working hours in Europe and it is hard for women to excel as society still expects them to be the primary care-giver.

Often a combination of confidence issues and ‘Imposter Syndrome’, means that women deflect praise meant for them onto that of their male colleagues.

They are worried they might come across as too ambitious as they know that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

‘There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’ - Sheryl Sandberg

When President Obama first took office, female staffers were often overlooked and their ideas were stolen by the men in the room; to combat this they banded together so that they could be heard.

They adopted a meeting strategy called ‘amplification’ which meant that, if a women made a key point, other women would continue to repeat it whilst giving credit to the women who first said it.

This would force the men to recognise the contributor and prevent them for mis-attributing the idea as their own.

In flying training, I often find that it is female pilots who are often the most unsupportive of other female pilots. My wife tell me that it is similar to when a women hears from her friend about a great business idea she has had; it just makes her uncomfortable - women are often jealous of their friend’s successes.

Recently, Ann Friedman at ‘The Cut’, coined a phrase - ‘Shine Theory’ - that says that women should be looking to promote other women’s successes, not dismiss them.

'When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her, surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.’ - Ann Friedman

But often negative self-talk is so powerful and controlling that it steals our ambition and stops us realising our dreams. It isn’t a lack of skills, ability, or determination that prevents us from achieving our goals, but a very hidden and very real under-confidence.

Learn to take more risk and have less regret - execute your plan and do the thinking as the go. Too many people spend too much time waiting for the right opportunity that never comes. Push for what you want, help each other on the way and remember - ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’

Believe in yourself and ‘shine’ together!

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