This month, we celebrated International Women’s Day and it had me reflecting on women in business and the gratitude I have for the women that have gone before me, who have traveled that path and overcome significant challenges. You know, it is not that long ago, my parents’ generation, when the woman was expected to give up work once they got married. That would be laughable in Ireland in 2021.
I am reminded of a story where my Mum & Dad brought their wedding forward because my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) had passed away and there was no ‘woman of the house’ to take her place, so it was what was expected by society that this would happen, and it did happen! A small wedding with no music or dancing (to respect the recent family loss). Absolute madness.
I am grateful that I was raised to be an independent woman by both my parents and always encouraged to reach my potential, whatever exploration I was drawn to along the journey. I am also grateful that they continue to see that growth and understand that we always continue to learn and grow. What a lucky daughter I am.
When I reflect on my career to date and consider the challenges that I faced working predominantly in a male dominated field (IT) and the challenges in that space around equality, respect, perceived capability, and vulnerability, I am reminded of how it changed my understanding, my attitude and my ability to survive. The next step in the journey was of course the awareness and realization of how I was performing in that space, both progressively and at odds with the real me, in parallel. I found myself asking more questions, manifesting challenges, experiencing growth, and going right back to asking questions again, always looking for clarity of my understanding.
The journey of personal development is a choice. It is said that change is inevitable, but growth is optional and I’m a great believer in this. I am always interested in hearing another way, putting myself out there trying things, reading, listening, and educating myself from those who have gone before me.
When I think about the bigger milestones of my journey and take time to acknowledge the significant leaps forward which I have made, I acknowledge the people along the way that educated me, that shone a light on behaviour (mine and others), that encouraged me, that it listened to me, that supported me. However, I am also grateful for the lessons I was taught through terrible situations, unpleasant challenges, trials that were really difficult, that didn’t sit well with me and significantly pushed me outside my comfort zone. Not so surprisingly, that’s where growth also awaited.
When I consider the cultures that I have worked in, I think about working out in the Middle East, again in the IT industry and with other cultural nuances at play and they just not knowing ‘what to do with me!’ I remember so vividly sitting in an office with a full glass wall and for about 3 weeks the men walked up and down and just peered in the window, no comment, no work, no conversation, they simply did not know what to make of me!
As a woman I am fortunate to have so many shining lights to look up to, to model, to motivate and to encourage me, both male and female, and you all have the same, progressive thinkers, educators and visionaries of our time. However, in recent times I am finding myself in situations where I am being pushed to call out those women who do not support other women, who belittle, ignore, demean, shame, guilt, and bully other women. Those who would like nothing better than to see a woman fail, and the disappointing thing is that they can be found everywhere and anywhere, in your family, at the school gates, in your workplace, in your sports club and on social media.
I watched the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry this week and I was struck by Meghan making the comment that if you like Kate, it did not mean you had to hate her, or that if you liked her, it did not mean you could not like Kate as well! Bringing it back to the world of personal development, if you are on a journey of growth, it does not mean you cannot support another on their journey. It certainly is not the case that your light will shine brighter if you extinguish theirs.
It should be noted that there is a large community of supporters, my wish is that you engage fully in that community, you surround yourself with a cohort of people that help you to reach your potential particularly as a woman, and you protect yourself and your journey from that projected fear that might entice you to turn back.
I see women all the time who fail to bring that feminine energy, that feminine side of their personality into their professional role, that softness into their leadership or people management style. They operate behind a strong, powerful, iron mask and strive for targets, results, and progression. Power is their goal. She can be a BITCH! This is not to be confused with stepping into your power, being assertive or choosing the correct attributes in the given situation – all positive qualities for growth. She is actually a wounded woman.
There seems to be more leeway for a male counterpart to reveal his feminine qualities but for a woman, who is not awakened on her journey, it is my experience is that she often sees this as a weakness or is fearful that it will be noted as such. Of course, the reality is that both masculine and feminine energy / qualities exist in both men and women, my point is that women have a secret power, this feminine goddess energy, that you can so easily tap into, so why wouldn’t you? Why not use it to get the best out of people. Have a more productive and happy work environment, operating from a mindset of growth, teamwork, and inclusivity.
We, as a society are moving to encourage our daughters, sisters, and female community to step up and to move into careers that are predominantly male orientated, encouraging Politics, Engineering and Science for our school leavers. However, when I hear commentary around gender equality, I am uneasy at the delivery of statistics.
It is not about getting someone who identifies as female, in the role, it cannot be about statistics. No woman should be in, or get promoted to a role due to gender statistics, a token offering. The same is true for panel discussions, podcasts and sporting positions and commentary. They should be there on merit, adding value and providing leadership. It is about the qualities and female opinions as a woman that you can tap into so much easier when compared to a man. Nonetheless, if you are a woman and you are not tapping into that potential, if you are a woman and you are operating behind a mask of masculinity then perhaps you could do better.
As a woman, when you tap into that feminine energy, it gives us the freedom and space to grow, we can encourage, we can uplift, we can support, we can trailblaze and we can lead. We can find peace, we can provide balance, we can be happy. So, if you are a woman in business, if you work with other women in business, regardless of what level of the organisation they are at; take a moment to reflect.
- How do you feel about women in your organisation?
- How do you represent those women?
- How do you show leadership in your encounters with those women?
- What kind of a role model are you?
- Are you fully present as a woman?
- Do you give feedback / opinions as a woman?
- Do you call out other women’s poor behaviour?
- How would your co-workers describe you?
- How would you rate your relationship with other women in your organisation?
- How grounded are you as a woman?
It might be time to grab your journal and jot down the thoughts that have come up for you as you read this blog, openly, honestly and for yourself. We continue to process and respond to new challenges and situations all the time, there is always an opportunity to change and to respond rather than react.
Awareness is key and support is available, if you have discovered that YOU are that Bitch, you work for that Bitch or that Bitch is standing in the way of your career progression and you need change then I would love to hear from you. Stay strong, stay kind, and keep moving forward, M x.