I bet you’ve heard of “imposter syndrome”. In fact, you might even believe it’s a huge problem for women, holding them back professionally and personally. You wouldn’t be alone. I thought the same thing, and I’ve even done talks and podcast episodes on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. But new research from The Female Lead shows that imposter syndrome isn’t the problem for most women. The problem is an Entitlement Gap.
In their research, only 26% of participants described a time when they felt imposter syndrome, and they were not deterred by it. They concluded that the real problem was an “Unentitled Mindset”, or an Entitlement Gap between men and women. This gap means that men feel entitled to raises, promotions, support and boundaries while women did not. As a result, women don’t advocate for more money, more prestige and power, more support and better boundaries. That’s where I can help.
For 20 years I advocated for my clients in the courtroom as a medical malpractice defense attorney. I was extraordinary at advocating for others-but not for myself. Then I realized I could use the tools of a trial lawyer to advocate for myself, my ideas, my bank account and my business. Now I work with individuals and corporate partners to help them advocate with the 10 tools of a trial lawyer. These tools are Elegance, Words, Perspective, Questions, Evidence, Credibility, Presentation, Reception, Negotiation and Argument. I discuss them in depth in my book Advocate to Win-10 Ways to Ask for What You Want and Get It. Three of those tools are especially helpful when it comes to closing the “Entitlement Gap”
1-Words. When advocating, every word matters. You want to choose your words carefully and pick the ones that will most resonate with your jury of clients, customers, managers, friends or family (anyone you want to persuade or influence). As an advocate, I make sure I know what the words I use mean and where they come from. So let’s look at “entitled”. The word entitled means “to have a legal right or legitimate claim” to something OR “to assume you have a legal right or legitimate claim” to something.
When it comes to the Entitlement Gap, we’re talking about assuming you have a right to something. The word assume means “to suppose without evidence or proof”. And when people are entitled, they assume they have a right to that raise, that job, that support or that boundary. They make that assumption even without any evidence or proof. I don’t suggest that women should strive to assume they’re entitled. That won’t work in the long term. Rather, I want women to presume they are entitled to more money, more support, better boundaries and more power. To presume is to suppose based on evidence or proof. That brings us to the next tool of an advocate-Evidence.
2-Evidence. In their research, The Female Lead suggested that to close the “Entitlement Gap” women need to become more self aware. I agree, and one way to do this is to collect evidence, facts that support the presumption of entitlement. That’s why I give my coaching clients Evidence Journals. I ask them to end every day by collecting evidence of all the reasons they have a claim to all that they want and need. My clients use Evidence Journals to collect evidence of their skills, their talents, their credibility, and passions.
They also collect evidence of the likelihood of them receiving what they want and need. I ask them to look for other examples of women or minorities who have received something similar. They list policies and procedures that might support their presumption of entitlement. And they also look for evidence that might not be so obvious. A mother returning to the work force might think she has no evidence of her ability to lead a team until I reminded her of the time she took 8 kids camping for a week….Everything is evidence, and to overcome the Entitlement Gap women need to use their evidence to support their presumption of entitlement.
3-Questions. This is one of my favorite tools of an advocate. It reflects Curiosity, which is one of my 5 Cs of an advocate. Questions are magic. In order to close the Entitlement Gap we need to stop asking so many questions of our Inner Jury and start asking more questions of our Outer Jury.
Your Inner Jury is the part of you that decides. She decides whether you ask your Outer Jury (clients, customers, bosses, etc) for that raise, that support or that promotion. If you keep asking your Inner Jury whether you should be asking, you never will. You have to presume that you should be asking, based on the Evidence collected above.
Then you get to Questions for the Outer Jury. And it’s not simply asking your boss “Could I have this raise/promotion/support/boundary?” It goes a little deeper than that. You want to ask Questions that invoke your Outer Jury’s curiosity. Questions like “What are the policies for raises in this situation?” or “Tell me what I need to do to get that promotion”. (“Tell me” questions are magic, as I discuss in my book The Elegant Warrior-How to Win Life’s Trials Without Losing Yourself).
These questions set the stage for the final ask — asking for that thing you are entitled to receive.
I’d like to add a special note for the men reading. You are our best advocates. I do Bystander Intervention training for corporations, because that is simply advocating for the victim of bullying, harassment or abuse. Studies show that in those situations when men advocate for women, things get better. Imagine what would happen if you started advocating for our raises, our promotions, our additional support and our boundaries……
My definition of win is “to receive something positive because you’ve earned it.” If something positive is more money, more support, better boundaries or more power, you earn it by advocating. And that is how you close the Entitlement Gap as well.