As a passionate advocate for gender equality and workplace empowerment, I continually seek insights to address the barriers faced by women professionals. Recently, I delved into an enlightening Forbes article by Bonnie Marcus, featuring an interview with Dr. Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and performance coach.

Dr. Klapow sheds light on the challenges high-potential women encounter in male-dominated workplaces, and I am excited to share how my specific life coaching methodology, anchored in positive psychology, can further support women in these environments.

What We Often Hear about Why Women Don’t Reach Their Full Potential in the Workplace

While various reasons are often cited for why women may not reach their full potential in the workplace—such as lack of confidence, reluctance to ask for raises, or perceived need for more training—the fundamental challenge high-potential women encounter is not their competence or willingness to advocate for themselves. Instead, their primary obstacle lies in navigating a system that was not originally designed to facilitate their success.

Some common misconceptions about why women may not be reaching their full potential in the workplace include:

  1. Lack of Skill: One misconception is that women may not be reaching their full potential due to a lack of skill or competence. This assumption overlooks the fact that many women possess the necessary skills and qualifications but face barriers related to bias, discrimination, and unequal opportunities.
  2. Hesitation to Ask for Raises or Promotions: Another misconception is that women do not reach their full potential because they are hesitant to ask for raises or promotions. While negotiation skills are important, the issue often goes beyond individual behavior to systemic factors such as unequal pay practices and limited advancement opportunities for women.
  3. Confidence Issues: It is often assumed that women’s lack of confidence is a primary reason for not reaching their full potential. While confidence can play a role, focusing solely on confidence overlooks the impact of systemic barriers, workplace culture, and biases that may hinder women’s advancement.
  4. Need for More Training: Some may believe that women are not reaching their full potential because they require more training or development. While continuous learning is important, this misconception fails to address deeper issues such as gender bias, lack of mentorship, and limited access to leadership opportunities for women.
  5. Expectations of Female Behaviour: There is a misconception that women need to conform to traditional gender norms or adopt more masculine behaviours to succeed in male-dominated workplaces. This expectation can create a double bind for women, where they are penalised for being too assertive or too passive, reinforcing gender stereotypes and limiting their advancement.

Navigating Toxic Environments

In his work, Dr. Klapow helps high-potential women leverage their unique styles and navigate male-dominated cultures with greater influence. He emphasises the importance of understanding toxic behaviours, defense mechanisms, and psychological triggers that hinder performance. By teaching women to decode external behaviors and underlying psychological factors, they gain insights to effectively communicate, manage conflicts, and inspire others.

How Clinical Psychology and Performance Coaching can Help

Clinical psychology and performance coaching can help women overcome challenges in a male-dominated workplace by providing them with valuable insights, strategies, and support to navigate the unique dynamics and obstacles they may face. Here are some ways in which these approaches can be beneficial:

  1. Understanding Psychological Factors: Clinical psychology can help women understand their own psychological patterns, insecurities, triggers, and defense mechanisms that may impact their behaviour and interactions in the workplace. By gaining insight into these factors, women can develop self-awareness and make conscious choices in how they respond to challenges.
  2. Building Confidence and Assertiveness: Performance coaching can assist women in building confidence, assertiveness, and communication skills necessary to navigate a competitive environment. This can help them effectively communicate their ideas, assert their boundaries, and advocate for themselves in a male-dominated setting.
  3. Navigating Workplace Politics: Both clinical psychology and performance coaching can provide women with strategies to navigate workplace politics, understand power dynamics, and build relationships with colleagues and superiors. This can help women navigate the unwritten rules and expectations in a male-dominated culture.
  4. Developing Resilience: Through these approaches, women can develop resilience to cope with challenges, setbacks, and biases they may encounter in a competitive workplace. By understanding their own strengths and limitations, women can better navigate difficult situations and maintain their well-being.
  5. Empowering Women: Clinical psychology and performance coaching empower women by helping them recognise and challenge societal norms and expectations that may limit their potential. By embracing their unique strengths and leadership styles, women can assert their presence and influence in a male-dominated environment.

Integrating Life Coaching and Positive Psychology into this Equation

Building upon Dr. Klapow’s insights, my coaching methodology, anchored in positive psychology, offers additional tools and strategies to support women in male-dominated workplaces. Positive psychology focuses on leveraging individual strengths, fostering resilience, and cultivating a growth mindset.

Through personalised coaching sessions, women can identify and amplify their strengths, develop resilience in the face of adversity, and adopt a mindset of growth and possibility.

Ultimately, coaching can offer women valuable tools and strategies to navigate the complexities of a male-dominated workplace, enhance their leadership skills, and achieve success on their own terms.

Creating a Shift Towards Healthier Work Environments

In navigating male-dominated workplaces, high-potential women face multifaceted challenges that require specialised support. Through an integrated approach that combines insights from psychology and coaching, women can develop the psychological resilience and skills needed to succeed in competitive environments.

There is still a long way to go for organisations to really create more inclusive and equitable work environments where women can thrive and reach their full potential. Yet organisations can intentionally take steps in challenging misconceptions, addressing systemic barriers, and empowering women with the tools and strategies to succeed, e.g. through coaching financing / support.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie


Inspired by:

Marcus, B. (February 1st, 2024). How Clinical Psychology and Performance Coaching Help Women Navigate a Competitive Male Dominated Workplace. Forbes. Retrieved from