Women’s Empowerment. Who’s actually biased? Could it be, women, that you are?
We have electric cars, online shopping (and drones to deliver it), and artificial intelligence… Fantastic. But why, in this highly evolved environment, do we not see hordes of empowered women growing, thriving and revolutionising the world?
Because we’re still being under-paid, and this in negatively impacting women’s empowerment. South Africa’s median gender pay gap is currently 23% to 35%. In 2022! And guess what? That’s not even the real problem. Perhaps it’s controversial for me to say this, but… I’m going to anyway:
As women, we often look to society for change, when we are actually biased against ourselves (thanks to centuries of conditioning). I believe that we must overcome our own blindspots; we must change our intrinsic expectations; we must show up and, in doing that, show others how to treat us. So there it is.
Margaret Thatcher famously said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” It’s a wonderful sentiment, but the work of real women’s empowerment is simply not getting done.
Women’s empowement must start with us, or we’ll never get it right.
Start inside your own mind
You can do things to shift the status quo in your favour, and trust me, the most enduring shifts are internal first.
Take a moment now to consider these questions below and I strongly suggest that you write them down together with your answers:
- How do you disqualify and discount yourself (stories that you tell yourself or those that others tell you that don’t actually serve you)?
- Is the way you think about yourself elevating you, diminishing you, or keeping you at a standstill?
- What is standing in the way of you showing up differently in the world?
- What would it take for you to be brave enough to take action?
You get the life you choose. If you accept the first offer on the table and don’t negotiate, that’s on you. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to be a tough nut to leave your mark. The strength of a woman lies in subtly establishing her worth.
See strength like silk
Did you know that kilo for kilo, silk is tougher than steel? The strength of this luxurious fabric comes from its beta-sheet crystals; the nano-sized cross-linking domains that hold the material together.
Sounds like a woman, if you ask me.
Soft, yet robust. Beautiful, yet hardy. Flexible, but unbreakable. Capable of self-healing and healing others.
In business, strength often means having the ability to wear multiple hats, lead by example, and overcome the odds – and typically, there’s not a whole lot of luxury involved. Here are some of the strands you’ll need:
- The power of peace of mind
Truth is, you’ll never be free of troubles, and many of these troubles simply aren’t controllable. But you can control how you deal with them. The key to combatting leadership stress and anxiety is finding your inner calm. Try accepting what can’t be controlled, forgiving yourself and others, and focusing on the present.
Financially independent women are unstoppable. When you have a nest egg, you can choose what you want your present and future to look like. If you’re married or in a partnership, it may be difficult to separate what’s yours and what’s shared. But try to have your own personal reserve; one that gives you freedom of choice.
- Avoidance of feminine guilt
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly navigating manipulation quicksand, which is often a result of societal and historical conditioning. But the only way to avoid it is to keep feminine guilt to an absolute minimum. Guilt causes unnecessary vulnerability and, as a leader, being vulnerable can lead to making decisions based on emotion rather than insight. Keep your confidence up and your boundaries high.
- Becoming more “supportable”
Being a strong woman doesn’t mean doing it all. Ask yourself if you really need to undertake something. Sometimes the answer is no. Even if it’s yes, can you delegate it to someone else? You’ll need help and support, and you should take it when it’s available! We often feel driven to handle everything without faltering. But what for? Accept help, without feeling the need to control how others help you.
- Giving responsibility back
Women love to be needed by others. It validates us, to some degree. This is why ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ is such a real thing. In addition, with our hectic work-life schedules, it often seems easier to take over someone else’s responsibility because we can do it better or faster. The result? The burden snowballs, you end up carrying the entire load yourself, and the people around you watch you burn out. Whether it’s a task or a mental responsibility, give it back if it’s not yours to take.
- Ditching imposter syndrome
Stop asking if you are worthy of a person’s attention or a job opportunity and rather ask if it is worthy of you! The centuries of conditioning that a woman’s role is on the sidelines as a supporting act live on in our collective psyches. You are worthy of being in the spotlight and taking the lead role in your life.
Here’s the thing: In the gender equality conversation, we’re simply not talking loudly enough…to ourselves! Start rescripting women’s empowerment there. And build strength like silk.