5 thinking traps at work

Recognize typical female behavior patterns — and change them

That colleague gets the promotion you’ve been waiting for? Your ignorant boss may not be the only one to blame. We expose ways of thinking and behaving that hinder the professional and financial success of many women. Do you recognize your own behavior?

Despite all efforts to create equal structures in the world of work, women are still often disadvantaged in their careers and are underrepresented, especially in prestigious professions. Men are also better positioned when it comes to retirement provision. Are women standing in their own way?

One thing is certain: women are more susceptible to certain thought patterns and habits than men — and these can mean financial losses. We list five of these thinking traps and tell you how to consciously avoid them.

1. «I’m not qualified enough for this job.»

Job ads are to employers what letters to Santa are to children: a long list of wishes. Whether they can all be fulfilled depends on who applies and how many of the skills mentioned the applicants actually bring to the table. And in this respect, men are often much more self-confident than women.

Men apply even if they only meet some of the requirements. Many women, on the other hand, shy away from applying as soon as they don’t cover all the criteria in the search profile.

Labor market experts confirm: Women are more likely than men to look for a job that is below their qualification level. This is the result of a study by the Competence Center for Skilled Workers at the Institute of the German Economy (IW). The result: women settle for lower-paying jobs.

Don’t make this mistake. Take a self-confident approach to your job search: Apply for positions for which you don’t have all the qualifications. You will certainly have other skills and qualities that you can use to score points. You will learn the rest on the job.


Female academics

sought jobs below their qualification level in 2018.

2. «My work performance speaks for itself.»

Your customer is satisfied, you have met the targets or landed a new order? In such cases, most men have no problem at all patting themselves on the back and telling the boss about their exploits. Women in the same situation prefer to praise the team and not mention your own contribution with a word. They learn from an early age: Modesty is a virtue — and self-praise stinks.

High time to change your behavior! There is neither a bonus nor a promotion for modesty. Even your work performance rarely puts in a good word for you. You have to do it yourself. Praise yourself and your successes and make sure your boss hears about it. Don’t worry: presented charmingly, self-praise is guaranteed not to stink.

3. «It’s nice that everyone likes me.»

Among the traits that tend to be more feminine is the desire to be liked by everyone. There is nothing at all wrong with a friendly demeanor in everyday work. However, the desire to please everyone quickly leads to insecure behavior and unclear expressions. If you want to be taken seriously on the job, you should communicate in as binding a manner as possible. Clear statements instead of feel-good jargon.

An example: «Could you possibly arrange to send me the figures by tomorrow evening?» This sounds unsovereign and leaves the addressed colleague with the feeling that it’s not a big deal if it doesn’t work out. A better way to put it is, «Why don’t you send me the numbers by tomorrow evening?» That’s clear.

Another bad habit that tends to be associated with the female gender is reticence in meetings. Behind this, too, is usually the worry of bumping into someone somewhere. You should not be afraid to criticize or contradict. If you have good, factual arguments, present them.

4. «I don’t understand enough about finance to be able to invest my money.»


of women rate their own financial knowledge as good or very good

Only one in four women say of themselves that their financial knowledge is good or very good. Of the men, 43 percent claim the same. Only eleven percent of women rate their knowledge of securities as at least good, while 25 percent of men say the same. These are the findings of the Wealth Barometer 2019, conducted on behalf of the German Savings Banks and Giro Association.

The fear of making mistakes out of ignorance leads many women to do nothing at all with their savings. And that is the biggest mistake! Money that is parked in a checking account or a call money account gradually loses value due to inflation.

The basic rules for investing money are not complicated at all. If you spread the amount to be invested over several types of investment, you also spread the risk. This is possible, for example, with broad-based investment funds that invest in different types of assets such as equities or fixed-income securities. Of course, these funds are also subject to fluctuations in value, but the longer the investment horizon, the more risk you can take. Everything you need to know about funds can be found in our fund FAQ.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to become a professional in financial matters yourself either, but you can get support. The advisors at the Sparkasse will be happy to help you. The important thing is that you take action and set out step by step on the path to financial independence. Not having a clue no longer counts as an excuse!

5. «My income is not yet enough for retirement planning.»

Are you one of those women who do nothing for retirement planning because your budget won’t allow it? Then you’re in the middle of a major thinking trap that will snap shut just as you’re about to retire from your professional life.

What many don’t know: In Germany, women receive on average only half as much pension as men when they retire!

You’re young and think your gender won’t make a difference when it comes to your pension? You thought wrong! Because women’s employment biographies are often interrupted even today by child-rearing periods, care periods or longer phases of part-time work, younger women’s statutory pension entitlements are lower than those of their male peers. You should consciously deal with your pension provision so that you are financially independent later on.

The later you start, the more time-consuming it will be to put aside enough money to live adequately in retirement. So start as early as possible and let the compound interest effect work for you over time. Even a savings amount of 25 euros per month makes a difference. To find out how you can save for retirement even on a small budget, read our article «Every euro counts.