The best leaders demonstrate high self-awareness. And research shows that women leaders generally have higher self-awareness than men. Women also rate themselves higher on their level of self-awareness than men do, and so do their direct reports, managers, and peers. Women also respect and recognize how important self-awareness is for career development and success.

So if women leaders are so plugged into their self-awareness, why aren’t more of them on equal footing with their male counterparts? Why are they generally paid less and underrepresented in the workplace?

The self-confidence myth

While gender inequity has wide-ranging causes, much of our work with our women leaders focuses on helping them develop greater self-awareness. What we’ve learned from them matches what the research says: Women leaders are not less confident than men. Our women clients aren’t shy or afraid to speak up in meetings. They self-rate themselves high in skills, knowledge, and in their leadership contribution to their teams and workplace cultures.

Underestimating value-added

Where our women leaders do struggle,how ever, is in assessing how others perceive their value-added. Women very often underestimate their true value in the eyes of the others around them.

This naturally affects their behavior. To what degree do women hold themselves back? From applying for a promotion? From putting themselves forward for a bigger project or grant? From asking for more money?

A lot!

Reality-check tools

So how can women leaders get a more accurate view of their contributions as others see them? We work with our women clients on creating a strengths-based leadership self-portrait, using two tools.

The first tool is the self-assessment Strengths finder, based on Tom Rath’s book, Strengths-Based Leadership. We love it, because it’s behaviorally-based with descriptions of leadership strengths.

The second tool is a feedback-seeking exercise that is also strengths-based: The Reflected-Best-Self (RBS). This helps close the gap between your own self-views and the views of the people around you about your leadership strengths. You can see your strengths more clearly as others see them. You can find instructions on how to do it, right here.

If you’re a woman leader reading this, then make sure you have an accurate picture of what others see as your defining strengths and contributions. It puts you on the fast track to removing any self-imposed constraints getting in the way of you putting yourself forward for bigger, better opportunities and for enjoying the fullest extent of work meaning and contribution that you deserve.