Leadership and gender…I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but the reason you are reading this particular article is that a few days ago I was in a meeting talking about running a women’s empowerment workshop, and the facilitator said something interesting, she said her personal advice to her daughter, to get what she wants, is to “act like a man”!?! you can imagine my confusion here, as this woman is supposed to run sessions on female empowerment…but this did start a train of thought.
It seems to me, the answer for women to lead was a simple one: act like a man. Wait, let me backtrack and expand on that; to be a leader, you cannot be perceived as feminine. Women are sometimes made to believe that we have to be aggressive and unapologetic, toss our femininity out the door, and - if need be - tear down other women to get what we want. It is as though being a woman somehow made you weak, so you couldn’t be who you are in order to achieve what you wanted, and instead had to be someone else...namely, an uber-masculine caricature of what it means to be powerful and respect-worthy. However, throughout my life, I learned not only through reading about women in history but watching how the feats they achieved affect our everyday lives, that that is not in any way the case. Women throughout history didn’t lessen themselves as women to achieve what they wanted; from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, these phenomenal women held their ground as women and shattered social norms.
We are a generation of women that march in the streets because we know we deserve better, we are the women who are both mothers and CEOs; we are women, unashamedly and proudly. However, some habits are unfortunately hard to break, and a cycle I still - unfortunately - see among some women in the workplace is that we have to tear each other down because of a fallacy in the belief that ‘there can only be one. Every TV show, rom-com, and other mass-produced pieces of media insinuate women must be at each other’s throats and tear each other down to get what they want, so it must be true, right? Well if you’re reading this, you’ve probably guessed what I’m about to say, and you’d be right; that idea is so wrong and backward we should leave it in the same place we decided to leave Electroshock Therapy and Bill O’Reilly.
But this isn't about women and men, as much as it is about people trying to make you believe that you are not enough, and somehow if you change this about yourself, or that about your personality, then you will be more "acceptable" in the eyes of others. Well, I am here to tell you that isn't true.
My job (as I see it) is to uplift those around me, to ensure every one of my employees is molded into the best versions of themselves to ensure their success and unlock their true potential. I try to lead by example, emulate what I admired from my mentors, and introduce aspects I feel would make me a better example to those around me. It all comes down to personal responsibility at the end of the day, are you willing to stand by who you are? I don’t believe the road to success lies in domination, but in hard work and a firm grip on who you are and what you stand for; I pull great inspiration from Michelle Obama in that regard, during her husband’s presidency Mrs. Obama not only faced a lot of racial and other types of discrimination but attacks on her femininity as well. However, time and again Michelle Obama proved a strong work ethic, uplifting those around her, and belief in herself allowed her to be not only a feminine woman of power but an inspiration to millions.
As a woman in a leadership role - or a woman aspiring to be in a leadership role - working towards uplifting yourself and your colleges should be your number one priority; should be the priority of any leader really.
I ascribe to one rule of thumb in life, both at home and at work, and it’s a simple one; check yourself. We’re humans at the end of the day and not infallible, which is why taking a step back and asking yourself ‘are you doing this to help, or is this about your ego?’ is important. Women are capable of many wonderful things from the home to the workplace, but it’s only once we refuse to step backward in regards to who we are, that we can achieve bringing ourselves and those around us to new heights. The evil She Boss is not powerful, it's just plain mean and by the way not an efficient or sustainable way to manage anyone. You can be nice, you can care about people, you can be you and still be powerful.
Keep shining, stay humble and step into your power 😊