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Women in Business Challenge: Fear of Failure

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t take a risk because you were afraid of failing? I know I have more times than I can even remember. What if you walk into a job interview and don’t express your true self because you’re afraid you won’t be accepted for who you are? Now, let me ask you this: what if you walk into that same job interview, show the interviewer who you are and are fearless, and instantly get the job? Think about the what if’s. What if you succeed? If you don’t take the risk, you’ll never know how great the reward could be.


Many women in business struggle with this challenge, as it can feel especially difficult to voice their opinions in a field where males still tend to dominate, especially in higher level positions. Data from a recent McKinsey survey shows that as ranks get higher in organizations, the number of women dwindles. There were a total of 325,000 women in entry-level positions, and only 7,000 of those women actually made it to vice president, senior vice president, or CEO. As women, we must stick together and prove that we can be the face of business. It is our duty to change these statistics and stop outdated social norms from getting in our way.


I recently interviewed Sarah Burger, an Ohio State graduate who majored in Finance, and the former President of UBWA. Now, she works for General Motors in Michigan, which is a job that she actually was able to receive because of her position in the club. Even someone with as powerful of a role as Sarah had in UBWA can struggle with taking risks and being afraid of failure, because it is a scary concept.


Although she generally does not like taking risks, as she frequently overanalyzes most of her decisions, Sarah made a very good point that I also think is very relatable to most people. She said “some of my best memories and proudest accomplishments happened when I took a risk”. For example, accepting her job offer at General Motors meant that she would have to move all the way to Michigan from her hometown in the suburbs of Chicago. However, she “decided to take the risk because nothing is permanent'', and if she hadn’t taken the risk and given it a chance, she would’ve regretted it. It is important for women to recognize risk taking as an opportunity for growth, because you won’t be able to prove what you’re capable of until you decide to take that leap and do something out of your comfort zone.


Failure is something that haunts most people and makes them think poorly about themselves when they have no reason to. Almost everyone has had an experience with an exam that they didn’t do as well on as they hoped for, but no one gives up after just one exam. Failing is part of life. Everybody experiences it at some point, whether it is big or small, and it is the only way to truly learn. Sarah adds, “The funny thing is that after a couple weeks and definitely after a couple months, I completely forget about the failure and so do the people around me. You will always judge yourself so much more than the people around you and that's definitely what happens after a failure”. Other people rarely even notice, and when they do, they move on. “It can be really easy to think that your co-workers have it all together but that is far from the truth. At the end of the day, we're all just humans trying to do the best we possibly can at our jobs which will definitely include some failures along the way”, notes Sarah. Especially in the workplace, people hold themselves up to an unattainable standard that doesn’t even exist. The truth is that no one is perfect and everyone makes their fair share of mistakes.


Lastly, do something you enjoy. Choose a job because it inspires you to work harder and take risks, even if it means you might have to move halfway across the country. Sarah said that if she could give any advice to college students, it would be to “make sure that you choose a company that you're personally excited about. Else, you're going to lose motivation to do your job really quickly.”


I truly believe that “Empowered Women, Empower Women” should not only be a motto in UBWA, but a mindset for every member. Like Sarah said, “as women, we need to be the ones lifting other women up, especially when they experience failure. We need to be the ones cheering on women when they're taking risks.” In my opinion, as long as we take these steps and never let anyone get in our way, we will flourish. And remember, just like Hannah Montana once said, “nobody’s perfect, everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days".

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