You’re the Only One Calling It a Failure

A note to women in the workplace: Done is better than perfect.

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In 2018, the Australian company Medibio conducted a survey of nearly 5,000 participants, each of whom answered 100 mental health questions and wore a heart monitor at work over the course of two four-week periods.

Peta Slocombe is a psychologist and senior vice president of corporate health at Medibio. In the study, Slocombe found a link between perfectionism and self-criticism. As it turned out, women were more likely to hold both of these traits.

Perfectionism and self-criticism can be detrimental in the workplace

The Medibio study found that 33% of corporate working women had high rates of perfectionism while 44% held high rates of self-criticism. On the contrary, only 21% of men held high rates of perfectionism while 34% held high rates of self-criticism.

To me, it’s no surprise that women hold themselves to a higher standard in the workplace.

As a woman, it can be difficult to put in so much more effort for less return. After all, women make just 81.6 cents to the man’s dollar (a statistic that is as recent as 2018, unfortunately). Add further marginalization to that (like being Black or Hispanic, for example) and women are seeing even less return for their investment of time, energy, and expertise.

These facts of life make it difficult to reckon with the fact that perfectionism is doing us more harm than good, and self-criticism is not the same thing as self-reflection.

So what’s the solution?

The solution for self-deprecating perfectionism lies in your mindset.

You need to know that 90% perfection is far better than many others’ effort.

From my own anecdotal experience working as a female CEO in the tech world, I’ve witnessed countless women say they feel like they’ve done a poor job, simply because it wasn’t up to their standards. A job that is 90% up to par for a bar you set yourself is not a bad job, despite the fact that your psyche — borne from a lifetime of bias in corporate spaces, and you got the short end of the stick — told you so.

Moral of the story? As women, we tend to be too hard on ourselves. We’re doing okay…great, in fact. It’s time to own that.

As a wise woman once said, “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

When it comes to job applications, women prove themselves to be more selective.

LinkedIn released a Gender Insights Report to show that women find and land jobs differently than their male counterparts. The study had a lot to say about the imparity between the two.

Despite similar rates of viewing job postings on the platform, women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. They’re also 26% less likely to ask for a referral for a job.

On the other side of the hiring coin, a recruiter is 13% less likely to click on a woman’s profile on the search page.

Hot Tip: This LinkedIn study offers various ways to implement gender-inclusive hiring. They start on page 12 of the PDF. Go look.

The most interesting thing about these statistics is that, in practice, they stem from a lifetime of intrinsic gender bias. American culture is one of many rooted in patriarchal power.

In the finance industry, women hold about half of all positions, but only 15% of executive roles. And that’s just one industry.

Moral of the story

Don’t let your perceived failures and shortcomings lead you down a road loaded with self-criticism. Don’t let them paralyze you. Don’t let them limit your prowess, not in the workplace nor your personal life.

Because at the end of the day, 90% perfection isn’t a failure, and done is better than perfect.

Written by

CEO @LightningAI, Demand Gen @Intercom, User Acquisition @MileIQ (acquired by Microsoft). Changing marketing through data science.

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