21st century women … kicking butt or kicking themselves?By Katie Day | Nov 28, 12 09:10 AM
You will always have more power being a woman than you will ever have trying to behave like a man.
Ok, so we’re now operating and working in every sector and industry, we generally perform better in education, we are in control of our bodies and when (and if) we become mothers, we earn our own salaries, own our own homes, live life on our terms, take advantage of everything our female ancestors fought so far hard for on our behalf. We’re happy right? Got it all sorted. Nothing else to do.
Or is there?
Over the last 23 years of working with organisations and women, I’ve noticed huge changes in culture and attitude. Working life is very different to when I started out on my career in the mid 1970’s. I can remember being asked when I was planning on getting married and having children! (I was 17). That question, and similar questions, are no longer allowed – quite rightly. My careers talks at school were based around ‘supportive’ roles only. For example: Secretary, Teacher, Nurse. It wasn’t even considered an option that I may want to be the Boss, Head Teacher or Doctor!
I was a bit of a maverick at school. I rarely did what people expected of me. Things haven’t changed much! I did start off in a ‘supportive’ role, but that’s because I wanted to get out there and start earning money and establishing my independence quickly. I’ve never wanted to be reliant on anyone but myself and that included my parents. I didn’t know it then, but I had an entrepreneurial spirit inside of me, it took another 12 years before it was allowed out and given the space to shine. However, even when I was an employee I continuously created roles for myself that had nothing whatsoever to do with my job description.
Since running my own business since 1989 working directly with organisations on their gender diversity and with women on their own self-belief and confidence, I have witnessed many changes. But one trend continues to show up. Some women, still, have a belief that they should hold themselves back, as to push themselves forward in their careers they may appear to be ‘ball breakers’ and will have to make the decision to sacrifice their femininity in order to succeed. Or, worse, they still believe they are not as good as their male counterparts. Organisations have a responsibility to ensure they have the correct culture, policies and practices in place to be fully supportive of all staff. But women have a responsibility too. Women in today’s 21st century business arena have a responsibility to take ownership of their own journey through life and with their career. We owe this to the women who have gone before us and created a clear path for our growth, and we certainly owe it to the women coming up behind us to ensure that path remains clear and open.
So, how do we do that? Well, firstly, never deny your innate feminine traits. Because, you will always have more power being a woman than you will ever have trying to behave like a man. The organisation that is in the best possible place for success and sustainability is the organisation that has a good balance of male and female energy. Male energy is great. So is female energy. To deny that inherent power that we are born with is disrespectful to us as women and disrespectful to men.
What does this mean in the business arena? Some of our fabulous female character traits that make us supremely placed to be managers and leaders in business are the following:
- We are brilliant at reading body language. Non verbal communication make up about 93% of the message we communicate to people, with the words themselves only responsible for around 7%. So our ability to effectively read that 93% makes us superb people managers and excellent leaders.
- We see differently to men. Yes, we really do have eyes in the backs of our heads! Women have great peripheral vision, therefore we ‘see’ everything that is going on around us, which enables us to pick up on team dynamics, to know who is feeling good and who is needing attention.
- We hear differently to men. Women have evolved to hear at higher frequencies to men, combine this with our non verbal communication skills and we are able to pick up on nuances in conversation that men are likely to find more challenging.
- Our EQ (emotional intelligence) is generally higher and more finely tuned than men’s. We are far more likely to lead and manage using the coaching and empowering style of leadership rather than the command and control style of leadership. This creates a more inclusive environment within the workplace. EQ is now regarded as being as crucial in business as IQ. So, as women, we are perfectly placed to take advantage of the new wave of leadership style that is sweeping across global business practices.
As women, we need to know that we have a voice. A powerful voice and one that needs to be, and deserves to be, heard. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of you having that voice. Have the courage to step out from behind any shadows that may be in your way, and take centre stage into the spotlight of your magnificence and shine.
The 21st century business world needs us, it needs the balance of feminine energy to allow it to blossom and flourish and create a balanced, sustainable environment in which we can all flourish and grow. We are a part of that journey and our presence in the business arena can create the equilibrium necessary. Be firmly rooted in your feminine power, don’t let anyone topple you off balance and become that shining star for others to follow.
Katie Day is a sought-after speaker and consultant who leads self-development programs on confidence, assertiveness, self-belief and other topics important to women around the world. She is a trainer and business coach as well as a personal style consultant. She lives in St. Leonards-on-Sea in England. She is a member of The Association of Style and Image Professionals as well as Cambridge Who’s Who. She recently published her book, The High-Heeled Leader: Embrace Your Feminine Power in Life and Work.