In this post, I talk about the current situation for women who want to make an impact, influence and lead. What women need to do and what companies need to do to support the evolution of the gender roles towards something that can be more effective and serve us all better.
Low self-confidence, money blocks, regular human bodies, fear of being disapproved, hardships from the past and gender roles. These are just some of the difficulties women have to deal with. Not to mention fear of failure, fear of success, fear of visibility, fear of speaking up, for the ones who want to make an impact, influence and lead.
In my work of helping women to advance, I accompany women to the other side of these issues – where they’re no longer an issue – everyday. And everyday I see women working hard, hustling, making constant efforts to fit in. Sometimes squeezing themselves in, rejecting themselves because they’ve been rejected, forcing themselves into roles that don’t fit them.
Also, I see women getting sick of fitting in, pulling themselves back and making alternative decisions. Deciding that the business or academic environment is no longer for them. Repeating that in the end, they are not so interested in money, power and prestige. That they can be happier raising kids, working part-time and not wasting time with stuff that in the end, it’s not their business. And I agree, life’s a matter of priorities.
And at the same time, being financially independent and able to sustain yourself, today and tomorrow, it’s your business. Especially today, when you can’t be sure that there’ll always be another family member who is the breadwinner.
When the price of ending a relationship can be the price of poverty and living a life of constant sacrifices and compromises.
Because dependency – any type of dependency – often means to put up with things that are not OK for you.
THE BUSINESS SIDE
On the other hand, having worked in business for years and owning a business myself, I must recognise that the current possibilities in business, considering the way the majority of businesses are lead, are very limited for women. It’s hard to find corporate environments that make something to assure that women can progress in their career as men do, inviting or letting them in the circle of knowledge and influence that can actually make a difference. Companies that actively do something to close the gender wage gap and assure that the employees’ evaluations are not based on very subjective elements, like leadership potential. Companies that offer opportunities for work-life balance whether the parent is a man or woman.
I see women running away from those environments that are based on being competitive and aggressive, focused on the one-time deal. I see women feeling deeply uncomfortable in having to show more competitive and aggressive behaviours. Because women care about relationships and bonding – even in doing business – and if you behave aggressively, you expect to have consequences in the relationship. I also see women who decide to be a badass just to discover that, even if we (men and women) are playing in the same arena, the rules are different. Simply because the gender roles and expectations on a woman’s behaviour are different.
And I get it, because I experienced this all personally. I’ve been in meeting rooms where women who put themselves forward and showed confidence and power were called bitches. I’ve seen splendid women, managing it all with grace, being literally faultless and even then, being judged as too masculine, not “being really a woman”. I’ve seen men turning uncooperative when led by a woman. I’ve seen the same women called bold or bitches. Rebels. Feminists. I heard people telling them that they should dare more when they stepped back (as a consequence of being rejected in their bold version) and try to be more collaborative and “feminine”.
THE HUMAN SIDE
It’s hard to win when you can’t win and the rule changes together with the game, isn’t it? It’s hard to win when your job includes naming what’s not working anymore, challenging the status quo and doing innovation. Because innovation brings storms and resistance in the form of critics and hard judgements. And judgements always close the doors.
Let’s face it: we need new solutions, because the old ones are not working anymore. Yes, some people are still taking advantage of them, but in the end, if we measure success with happiness – how I measure success – they’re not winning either. And in business and in human beings, when something breaks and doesn’t work anymore, it’s a chance to innovate. Open the window. Let fresh air in.
This is where we are and we need to make more space for women. We need to stop doing things as we’ve always done and raise new women who believe they’re good enough and who can’t wait to bring their value to the table. Yes, women need to do something to unlearn what they learnt and explore new possibilities, but we all need to do something. We can’t complain that women don’t ask and keep teaching to our daughters that asking is not only ineffective, but can also ruin the relationships.
Because, how many of you don’t ask for a raise or a promotion and expect it to be given to you because you work hard? How many of you realised that they were not even considered for advancement because other people didn’t think you were interested? Because other people thought you didn’t care about money? How many of you realise the consequences of a life of not asking when the main source of income disappear and the hours dedicated to raise the kids and keep the house in order don’t count on your CV and don’t count in your bank account either? It can be a very hard awakening and this is why it’s time to think about it today and go get what’s yours. Because getting what you want will make you happier and safer and also, give you the possibility to test new roles, making a concrete difference, for yourself and other women.
This is the magic of believing you are good enough – of even stop thinking in terms of good enough and being good, just good, as you are. With more freedom, independence and courage that you ever thought possible. Or at least, that’s what they had told you.