The world desperately needs more women in leadership roles. How do we shape a society that redresses imbalance in the number of women in leadership positions?
I‘ve been determined to make a difference in the world despite the sexism I’ve encountered, and so some years ago I chose to pretend it didn’t exist. You can’t be stopped by something that’s not there, right? I didn’t want to give sexism any power, as a way to prevent it from stopping me from achieving what I set out to. So I ignored it – head in the sand.
Great strategy, right?
However it’s got to the point I can no longer ignore the existence of sexism and patriarchy. It is alive and well, especially in Australia. I also recognise that the problems of sexism and patriarchy are not confined to women. Men, transgendered people, and gender diverse folks are also adversely affected.
There are countless studies and stats to make this point. What I’m more interested in the simultaneous rise of women and what it takes for more of us to shine. There is a growing recognition of the positive impact women can have in positions of power. Research has shown that more women in leadership positions in a business can increase profitability. Women are increasingly being elected as heads of state: New Zealand, Ireland, UK, Germany, Iceland, even Bangladesh and Singapore. It by no means represents and end to sexism and patriarchy, but it’s progress. (We often undervalue the importance of naming a sense of progress. We are making progress).
The world desperately needs more women in leadership roles.
What’s stopping us?
You’ve heard of the glass ceiling – what about the ‘glass cliff’?
There are often barriers to women having equal power in society – both external or circumstantial, and internal or personal. Researcher Michelle Ryan, who has been busting myths about women in leadership, encourages us to address the structural barriers instead of ‘fixing women’, noting a ‘glass cliff’ where women are often in positions of power in risky or precarious situations such as Teresa May and Brexit. This is an important context in exploring the difference we can make, and working on how we shape a society that rebalances the number of women in leadership positions.
What hinders our personal power?
What stops us from rising and shining, is limiting self-beliefs. These tend to be subconscious beliefs about ourselves that have us believe we are less capable than we actually are. Some of the indicators of this might include:
• A reluctance to put yourself forward and staying quiet instead of advocating for yourself.
• Thinking, “I’m not ready/skilled/talented enough” (Bullsh#t! You’ll never feel ready!)
• Believing the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).
• Busying yourself with everyone else’s problems.
• Not asking for help.
What helps us be powerful?
When we see that we’re holding ourselves back, it’s harder to pretend otherwise. What will the world become if we continue to hide and stay small? I’ve been fascinated by what it takes to create change, and have noticed that deep down all my clients know they are capable of more than they let themselves believe. What helps us in stepping into our power? Here are some of the key things I’ve learned that can help us to rise and shine.
• Notice how you respond to stress, when you react in ways that don’t serve you.
• Get curious about why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do, even though you know it would be a good thing.
• Explore what is conscious and subconscious (bring more from your subconscious awareness to the surface)
• Notice how you impact others, when do you inspire, when do you annoy?
• Learn from all the above to inform your behaviour.
• Be gentle with yourself and avoid trying to do it all at once, ie don’t set yourself up to fail.
setting yourself up to fail.
• Identify some people you admire, notice the qualities they have in common and that you share.
• Reach out to a few of the people on your list and ask them what they learned along their journey.
• Become a mentor to others. You’ll be surprised what you learn from the experience, about yourself and the value of what you have to offer your community.
• Before you judge anyone, especially another woman, consider what she might be going through, what assumptions you might be making.
• Before you judge yourself, practice self-compassion. Validate yourself.
• Remember that hurt people, hurt people. Acceptance and forgiveness can be a game changer for all involved.
• Be passionate, it’s what fuels us and keeps us going when things get hard.
• Emotions hold valuable wisdom, open your self to them, find the gift they offer, to help release them.
• Have the courage to care, starting with yourself – self-care balanced by caring about the world, but not being responsible for all of it!
You may already be practising some of these, some may be new or things you’ve been meaning to focus on. Be guided by what feels right for you and notice what you’re resisting. Taking responsibility for our own power can be confronting. Breaking through the internal barriers is how we change the narrative and make social change. Think about what’s important to you and how you can make the difference you want to make.
Each of us will make different choices, and have different practices and purposes. When we decide to rise and shine, we give permission to others to do the same. And when we support other women, we support ourselves.
It’s up to us to lead ourselves into a better future, taking responsibly for our own greatness. Be present to the times we rise and shine, moment by moment, one instance at a time.
It’s our time to rise and shine. And we are.
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