Kathy Caprino, M.A. is an internationally-recognized career and leadership coach, writer, speaker and educator dedicated to the advancement of women in business. A former corporate VP, she is also a trained therapist, seasoned executive coach, Senior Forbes contributor, top media source and the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough and her new book The Most Powerful You:7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss. With her Finding Brave podcast, books, assessments, coaching programs and other key resources, Kathy’s core mission is to support a “finding brave” global movement that empowers women to close their power gaps and reach their highest, most rewarding potential and impact in their work.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about your new book, The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss?
Kathy: As a bit of background, I had an 18-year corporate career that was “successful” on the outside but not on the inside. I experienced numerous serious crises that I couldn’t understand or effectively deal with, including sexual harassment, gender discrimination, narcissistic bosses, toxic colleagues, chronic illness, zero work-life balance and more. After a brutal layoff in the days following 9/11, I transformed my career, first to serve as a marriage and family therapist, then to offering career, executive and leadership coaching for professional women. At this juncture, I’ve worked with many thousands of women from around the world, from all walks of life.
Several years ago, I noticed some very common, repetitive patterns emerging in terms of what professional women were dealing with, and I decided to pull the lens back and try to put my finger on what’s underneath what seems to be a widespread experience of unhappiness, challenge, disillusionment and disappointment for so many professional women. I wanted to understand why thousands of working women globally appear to experience the same types of difficult and debilitating challenges, and why the men I worked with and spoke to didn’t seem to have these same challenges.
In looking at the data that emerged from thousands of interviews, conversations and client sessions over the past decade, I asked myself these two core questions:
“What is missing from the lives of working women who feel they can’t experience the joy, success, reward and impact they deserve and want?
“What are they getting from the coaching experience together that creates a breakthrough for them and moves them forward in ways they previously could not?
The answer that came from the research was this: The key missing ingredients for women today are bravery and power.
It became clear from our discussions that what many women needed (and I what I needed most when I was in my darkest period in my career) was more bravery to proactively and concretely address what isn’t working, and more positive power to make the critical changes needed to create and experience more success and happiness.
When I talk about “power” I’m not referring to power over someone to force them to do something, but power to– to make the changes that can transform our lives. And power to experience more strength, confidence, authority and impact so that we can overcome the obstacles in the way of our greater success and fulfillment.
What also emerged from the research was this:
There are 7 specific and damaging "power gaps" working women face that prevent women from succeeding, thriving and reaching their highest potential. These power gaps are remarkably common among women of all walks, education levels, industries, fields and roles. And these gaps are prevalent among women in entrepreneurial life, as well as corporate professionals, consultants, private practitioners and other types of work.
These 7 damaging power gaps are:
#1: Not Recognizing Your Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments
#2: Communicating From Fear Not Strength
#3: Reluctance to Ask for What You Deserve
#4: Isolating From Influential Support
#5: Acquiescing Instead of Saying “STOP!” to Mistreatment
#6: Losing Sight of Your Thrilling Dream
#7: Allowing Past Trauma to Shape and Define You
I refer to these challenges as “power gaps” because I see them as just that – gaps that widen and stretch with time (like cracks in the road that expand over time) that lead to a loss of what we need most to succeed in life - energy, positivity, confidence, clarity, commitment, connection and self-authority. The longer the gap is left unaddressed, the bigger it becomes, and the more our confidence, control and self-esteem leak out and diminish.
Q: You talk about 7 bravery-boosting paths. How do they help women experience more power and the ability to take the reins on their careers and futures?
Kathy: We build happier lives and careers through consistent, committed and intentional bravery that leads us to become the true authors of our lives. It takes courage, strength and well-formed boundaries to embrace new, confidence-building opportunities—to see ourselves as we really are, and to speak, ask, connect, serve and heal courageously so we can become who we long to be in the world of work.
The 7 brave pathways help us get on—and remain on—the journey of self-empowerment and growth, and not be detoured when we face serious obstacles that have the potential to derail us.The 7 brave pathways are these:
Q: What finding most surprised you from your survey of women?
Kathy: My biggest surprise was the sheer prevalence of these 7 gaps. While a large majority of the women whom I’ve heard from and/or coached, consulted, and trained in the past 10 years seemed to be experiencing these gaps, the data revealed a true epidemic of powerlessness - 98% of the over 1,000 women surveyed were experiencing at least one gap, and over 75% were facing three or more. The three most prevalent were:
Reluctance to Ask for What You Deserve (77%)
Losing Sight of Dream Future (76%)
Isolating from Influential Support (71%)
Q: What can organizational, corporate leaders and managers do today, to support women efforts to reach their highest and most rewarding potential, and serve at the highest levels in their organizations?
Kathy: For leaders today, essential shifts are needed in every organizational system and work culture to support professional women in gaining access to the fulfilling roles, leadership responsibility and influence, and positive impact they want and deserve. And these organizational shifts will help not just women – all contributors will grow and thrive at a deeper level.
Leaders need to deeply understand the 7 power gaps women face, and build a new type of work culture that allows all employees to address their power gaps openly, affording them opportunities to see themselves in a more positive light, with new eyes. As a leader, you can facilitate exciting growth opportunities for employees to speak, ask, connect, challenge, serve and heal more bravely and powerfully than ever before. And facilitating their bravery and power will dramatically improve their performance and expand their contributions and positive impact.
Here are just a few of the essential strategies leaders need to follow today:
Help Employees Celebrate Their Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments
Teach all your managers and those who lead others to incorporate new ways of recognizing and celebrating employees for their special talents and contributions. Point out these special contributions both privately and publicly and give others a chance to recognize each individual for what they uniquely contribute.
Foster Strong and Assertive Communication In All
Build a culture of trust and growth where both men and women can communicate from strength not fear and encourage employees to speak up authentically and openly about their opinions and ideas. Don’t allow managers to squash down people who challenge the status quo bravely or who represent change and innovation. Build a strong, open organization that supports strength and honesty in its people.
Stand Up and Say “STOP!” to All Forms of Mistreatment
As a leader you’re in a position to stand up and put a stop to all forms of mistreatment in its tracks. This includes gender bias and discrimination, pay inequity, sexual harassment, narcissistic behavior, toxic communication, emotional abuse, and other forms of mistreatment. Remove perpetrators of abuse from the organization. Role model and enforce a no-tolerance policy and don’t waffle on this. Build avenues of communication and support for people who feel they are being mistreated.
Q: How do you help women ask for and receive the promotions and raises they want and deserve?
Kathy: We need to understand how to ask for raises, promotions and other dimensions of professional growth and success, and how to claim more leadership, responsibility and influence in our work. As a career coach and trainer, I share with professional women a “power boosting” process that helps them recognize their great talents and accomplishments, understand what they really want in terms of how to leverage their skills more powerfully, and then build a very strong case—with facts and data-- that helps them land the raises, promotions and leadership roles they want and deserve.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Kathy: All through my life and professional journey, many women have had a profound and positive impact on me. Right now, I’d have to say it’s been my mother, Georgia Caprino, who has had the biggest impact. She is 96 years old, and this Spring, she contracted Covid-19. She recovered after a six-week difficult and painful period, all without being able to see her family.
All through this experience, and other terribly hard life events such as the loss of my father from cancer seven years ago, she has been strong, resolute, and never allowed herself to drown in self-pity or hopelessness, or rail against “what is.” She is a role model for resilience and remaining focused on the positive, on what we can control and the blessings we do have today, rather than what we’ve lost. I call her a “warrior spirit” and have learned so much about resilience, strength, hope and power from being my mother’s daughter.
Q: What are your favorite books?
Kathy: There are so many books that have changed my thinking and changed my life. Just a few are Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, A Way of Being, by Carl Rogers, The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth, and Angels in My Hair, by Lorna Byrne.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Kathy: Follow your passion but do it wisely, with sound business-building, marketing, financial, product development and other strategies. I made quite a number of large missteps in moving from corporate life to founding and growing my business and have learned from them (here’s a list of the top 5 mistakes I made). Get the help you need all along the way from sound advisors you trust and align with, who can elevate and educate you on the best ways to build your business so you can address a deep need in the market in ways that leverage who you are and what you care about most. Be positive in your thinking, but don’t mistake positive thinking as the only business strategy you need.
Here’s a quote that I love to share from Maria Nemeth, the author of The Energy of Money:
“We are all happiest when we are demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we are giving form to our Life Intentions in a way that contributes to others.”
If we can do this, as entrepreneurs and professionals and build more bravery and power in all that we do, our experience of success. prosperity and impact will expand and be far more rewarding and fulfilling in the process.