I attend a lot of events especially designed to support career women, I speak at some of them, and I even run some of them. The women who attend are intelligent, capable and determined, aspiring to reach the top of their organisations, some even have the stamina and courage to reach Board level with the intention of changing things positively for women when they get there.
The career advice that they are given at these events from strong successful women often centres around learning what gets the attention of male bosses, competing in a man’s world and being more confident.
Advice like, ‘shout about what you do’, ‘network’, ‘get a sponsor’, ‘take the emotion out of it’. I don’t hear ‘deepen your voice’ as much as I used to, but I am sure that advice is still being given out too.
This is all sound advice and may even help you to be viewed as one of the boys, but is that what we really want? We all have to adapt and flex our approach to get on with others, but when we behave just like the men at work, where does the feminine energy come from? The feminine traits that books like the Athena Doctrine say that the world values and are the key to the future.
If my daughter was entering the world of work now, rather than teach her to adapt I would want her to be able to articulate a compelling vision for why her behaviour, perspective and femininity are so valuable. How her unique package compliments the strengths of those different to her and how neither should be subsumed.
You see each time a woman doesn’t show her true self at work, she is saying ‘being me isn’t ok’, she is reinforcing that other behaviour is better and immediately putting herself on the back foot. If that’s not a compelling enough reason women to be you at work, perhaps this is: women are up to 40% more likely than men to develop mental health conditions, according to new analysis by a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, this can be caused by internalising our anxieties. Trying to be someone else at work could be a major contributor to that anxiety.
As a black woman perhaps I have come to this realisation easier, as even if I became one of the boys, the colour of my skin would be a further barrier from being accepted in an environment dominated by white males.
I don’t complain but embrace the fact that instead of hiding myself and attempting to fit in, I decided to stand out and help others understand what was so good about me being me. Strangely, this takes courage and some searching, because finding you under all of that conditioning, adapting and media influence, means that you dig deep, but you know that it’s worth it.
So for me, the only career advice modern working women need is:
1. Awareness of self
Increase your self-awareness – know your strengths and developments areas, get feedback. This helps you to continue to develop and reduce your blind spots.
2. Articulate your story
Be able to share why your unique combinations of skills and experiences are invaluable, you’ll never have to apologise for being you again.
3. Act now
Don’t wait to feel confident, just do – confidence comes after the act.
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