Becoming an empowered woman

Top 10 insights from working with women – Part 1: Our challenges

June 13, 2024
Posted by Karen Strang Allen

“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
ーKamala Harris


I remember clearly the day I realized there was a gender gap.

I was sitting in my Grade 6 classroom, listening to my teacher (Mr. Leonard) explain that women didn’t make the same amount of money for the same work that men did.

I was shocked…and dismayed…and for a while, I didn’t want to be a girl. It simply felt unfair. (Because it was.)

Now many years later, it’s not surprising I work as a love & empowerment coach for women. I could work with men, but I choose to work with women because I feel it’s time to level the playing field. My mission is to help women stop settling for less than they deserve so they can create extraordinary lives and epic love relationships.

After serving thousands of women over the past 10 years, I’ve been reflecting recently on the common themes that keep coming up in the stories women share and the struggles they face.

So I thought I’d share my top 10 insights from working with women.

This will be a two-part series…today, my first 5 insights will address the challenges of being a woman. In next week’s post, I’ll share the 5 tremendous advantages we have.

So let’s start with the challenges…

1. We dream too small

“Women have been trained to believe that some dreams or goals are beyond their reach.”
ーPatty Murray


Women are culturally conditioned to expect less. According to Claire Zammit, women’s expectations for their lives are 50% lower than men with the same abilities and qualifications…and even lower still for women of colour.

So there is a significant gap between what is possible for women and what is showing up in their reality.

More is possible! Women deserve fulfilling careers, successful businesses, financial abundance, security and safety, freedom and joy, and healthy, happy relationships!

But first, we must start expecting (and demanding) more.

2. We settle for too little

“I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” ーMalala Yousafzai


While progress has been made with women’s rights and gender equality in recent decades (and we thank those who contributed to this valuable work), there is still SO much still to do!

Here are some recent statistics that highlight the remaining gender inequality gap:


  • In the U.S., women earn about 82 cents for every dollar a man earns for doing the same work. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2021)
  • Globally, the gender pay gap stands at 23%, meaning women earn 77% of what men earn. (Source: International Labour Organization, 2022)

Education and employment:

  • Women make up two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people worldwide. (Source: UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, 2022)
  • In the U.S., women are slightly more likely than men to have a bachelor’s degree (36% vs. 35%), but are far less likely to be employed in STEM fields (27% vs. 73%). (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2021)

Leadership and representation:

  • Women hold only 29% of senior management positions globally. (Source: Grant Thornton International Business Report, 2022)
  • In the U.S., women make up only 27% of the members of Congress. (Source: Pew Research Center, 2022)
  • Globally, only 7% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs. (Source: Catalyst, 2022)


  • Less than 20% of the world’s agricultural landholders are women. (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
  • Globally, women are 1.4 times more likely than men to live in extreme poverty. (Source: UN Women, 2022)

Health and safety:

  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience depression, with 1 in 5 women experiencing it at some point in their lifetime. (Source: American Psychological Association)
  • One in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. (Source: World Health Organization, 2021)

These statistics demonstrate that despite progress made, significant gender inequalities persist.

Some of this gap between our potential and our reality is caused by societal inequities and injustices. Factors like how women are socialized to be “nice” and put others first, lost time in the workforce due to caregiving, not having enough visible female role models, and experiencing toxic workplace cultures that favour traditionally “masculine” traits all contribute to the gender gap.

But there’s something else going on here too. The gender gap is not only caused by societal inequities and unfairness…it’s also caused by us not standing up for ourselves…not advocating for the respect, equality and abundance we deserve.

We get what we will tolerate. 

We must raise the bar on our standards, and on what we’re willing to accept in our lives! We must most stop tolerating the intolerable and demand more from our partners, our employers, our families, our communities.

No more hiding. No more playing small. No more putting up with abusive behaviour. No more tolerating disrespect and unfairness. No more keeping quiet.

3. We underestimate ourselves

“Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.” ーBella Abzug


Part of the gap between our potential and our reality is caused by our identity…who we think we are and what we believe we’re capable of.

Women often struggle with self-confidence and self-doubt, which can hold us back from fully realizing our abilities and potential. Research has shown that women tend to underestimate their skills and capabilities, while men often overestimate theirs. (We definitely see this in the dating world lol!)

This confidence gap can manifest in various ways. For example, studies have found that women are less likely to apply for jobs or promotions unless they meet 100% of the stated qualifications, while men will apply even if they only meet 60%. Women also tend to attribute their successes to external factors like luck or help from others, rather than their own abilities.

Self-doubt can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where women don’t put themselves forward for opportunities, which then limits their advancement and achievements. It’s a cycle that reinforces the perception that women are less capable, competent or ambitious than men. (Not true!)

Building women’s self-esteem and self-worth is crucial to closing this confidence gap. Empowering women to see their full potential and claim their rightful place is key to unleashing their contributions and achieving greater gender equity.

It’s an important step towards realizing women’s true capabilities!

4. We try to do it all alone

“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” ーHelen Reddy


If we look back in history, women used to be supported in their role by an entire community of other women and elders. But now (particularly in North American society), we are isolated from that support, yet expected to do everything we once did (raising children, making meals, maintaining a home) while also working full-time and caring for others.

Because women are typically the ones everyone else relies on for support – friends, children, spouses, parents, schools, communities – many women are over-stretched and exhausted, often leading to a host of physical and mental illnesses. This exhaustion and depletion of our energy happens because we try to do it all alone, and we fail to ask for help and support.

Our culture’s praising of toxic independence and self-sufficiency comes at a significant cost to women…it’s time to take the Wonder Woman cape off and ask for the support we need to succeed and thrive!

5. We postpone our dreams too long

“The best protection any woman can have…is courage.” ーElizabeth Cady Stanton


Because women are conditioned from an early age to put others first, we tend to over-give, self-sacrifice, and put ourselves last.

This means that most women I work with feel empty and alone when a relationship ends or the kids move out, because they’ve given so much of themselves to their partner and family that they no longer know who they are outside of those relationships.

They’ve put their own dreams and goals and passions on hold to take care of others. They’ve lost touch with what makes them happy, and they’ve put their own well-being on the backburner…often with serious negative side-effects like depression, anxiety and burnout.

There’s nothing wrong with being kind and caring, but we need to redirect some of that same energy towards ourselves! We must learn to take care of ourselves like we do everyone else in our lives. And we must reconnect with our dreams and passions if we’re to live a life that makes us feel joyful & fulfilled.

(For insight into how to have healthier relationships that balance the need for self-care, see my free training Loving without Losing)

If any of this is making you angry…good. You should be. Use that anger to propel you into action…to raise your voice, to advocate for other women, and to finally make your own dreams a priority!

I hope my insights have been thought-provoking so far…

In Part 2, we’ll turn our attention to the advantages of being a woman…stay tuned!

xo Karen


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About the author

Karen Strang Allen

Karen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract their dream partner. 

Learn More about Karen