Women’s History Month is a time when we celebrate women’s contributions to history and to life. At Seasons Leadership, we believe that everyone is a leader to someone – they inspire someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. While women leaders are everywhere they still take up a much smaller percentage of formal leadership roles. While the U.S. population is 50.8 percent female, women make up 27 percent of Congress and 14 percent of active-duty military members. Some progress has been made in the past century but there is much more yet to be made. Women make up 47 percent of the U.S. labor force but a gender pay gap still exists, as does a gap in women insignificant leadership positions.
The work continues to help strengthen the path for women leaders so there are more of them. Increasing the diversity of leaders, increases leadership excellence. In some business cultures only a very narrow view of leadership is celebrated. However, if more ways of being a leader were supported, I believe we would see more diversity, more women leaders and stronger communities and organizations.
A specific story comes to mind. One day in the office a female director a few levels above me at the company pulled me aside after a meeting and asked to speak to me in private. Once we were in a closed room, she gave me a compliment about how I conducted myself in the office. She said that there are basically two paths that women can take when working in a predominantly male workplace. 1) They can compete with everyone, emulating men’s talk and behaviors and try to “beat them at their own game,” or 2) they can embrace their femininity and play to their strengths. She complimented me on taking path two, which she felt was more sustainable. While she felt she had followed path one and violated her own values, which wasn’t sustainable, and caused her to lose touch with what made her special. I was so grateful that she took the time to pay me that compliment. This insight helped me navigate my career from that point on.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou
To the point of that female director, I believe that we could use more women standing up for themselves and standing up for other women. Too often in the workplace I have seen women cut other women down in order to get ahead themselves. This scarcity, win-lose mentality of thinking that if someone else wins I lose can keep us from embracing all the possibilities.
Conversely, if we adopt an abundance mentality, that there is more than enough opportunity to go around, and we seek win-win scenarios, we help not only ourselves but others at the same time. Think about how powerful it is when women advocating not only for themselves but for other women; treat them as valuable contributors who deserve a chance to grow and shine. As President John F. Kennedy said, a rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s make women advocating for other women that rising tide.
“When women affirm women, it unlocks our power. It gives us permission to shine brighter.” – Elaine Welteroth
Reflecting on women who inspire me and have therefore been leaders in my life made me think about how that inspiration made a difference for me and for all those who I lead and influence. Some of the women who inspire me are women in my family like my grandmother, aunt, mom, and sisters, friends, colleagues, famous women from history, etc. The inspirations from each of these women is different and unique like overcoming hardships, showing strength, finding resilience, humanitarian efforts, grace, beauty and using their intelligence to make the world a better place. Collectively these women have helped mold me into who I am today.
While reflecting on Women’s History month and all the amazing contributions by women throughout history I am encouraged also to think about the future - what I want people to say about me and my contribution to history. I would like to be remembered as a strong, capable woman who advocated for herself and others, and helped others to live into their potential.
I am grateful to all the women who have blazed the trail through history. I love the image of me standing arm in arm with other women building on the great contributions of women before us and continuing to build a solid foundation for the women who come after us.
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