Rama Vani Periasamy
It is March! And you if haven’t already been flooded with women-centric marketing messages from brands trying to cash in on “International Women’s Day” then you most probably ARE living under a rock. Yes, womanhood should be celebrated. However, over the years, it has been reduced to a marketing gimmick. We have come very far, but there are miles more to go, ceilings to shatter and doors to be broken down.
For starters, here are some facts I read in a book.
- Only 17% of startups have a woman partner.
- Just 5% of the senior management roles in an organization are filled by women.
- There are very few women in political offices and even fewer as University chancellors & directors.
Despite all their stellar achievements, women often feel or are made to feel secondary to men in life. All thanks to the society’s stereotypes of the role of a woman. We have some amazing examples of women who have paved their own paths to success. How do we make that the norm and not the exception?
I ask all my fellow women in corporates, have you ever felt bound by the invisible shackles of the society? Have you ever retrospect on what is stopping you from climbing the corporate ladder? Here are a few takeaways from a book that might help you.
- Ask for Help
We women usually deal with a lot on our plates and have multiple roles to play. And don’t we just love multi-tasking? I have been in several situations when I’ve had work piled on me with strict deadlines. And I have always rolled up to sleeves and got the work done, often feeling burned out at the end. Why did I not ask for help?
Women everywhere are failing to ask for help. But why? It is how we are raised and conditioned.
It is normal to ask for help. It is not going to take away from our contributions. No one at the top could have reached there without the help they received all along. Asking for help is not admitting weakness; sometimes it is the wiser thing to do. It is an invitation for others to join your mission and it is a step towards self-love.
- Exuberate Confidence
Despite all their degrees, certifications, and fighting against all odds, women often tend to downplay their capabilities. Most of the time only a fraction of their potential is tapped, while there is an entire universe inside, unexplored. Thousands of years ago, our cave-dwelling male ancestors had to go out hunting, while women and children remained at home. While men donned masks and walked with puffed out chests, women shrank themselves. This pattern seems to hold true in workplaces across the globe.
The present-day woman brushes aside compliments, speaks hesitantly, hardly questions, never learns to says no, negotiates extremely well for others but not for herself. Now imagine a board room scenario filled with men who are the decision-makers. They usually present their arguments without hesitation, as they are expected to. On the other hand, many women are not able to demonstrate the same confidence while speaking at such occasions. Women tend to use insipid language despite knowing the significance of her statement. When the language is weak and the body language is timid, the arguments do not get the weight they deserve.
We think our work will speak and gain recognition. We believe talent will not remain hidden and we are conditioned to remain quiet and we choose to be. But this is no fairy tale and we are not drawn to that board room by a fairy God mother in a carriage, but by our years of hard work. The magic wands are in our hands and we must be our own fairy grandmothers. The only way to deal this is to standup, make our own voice heard and our opinion matter.
- Focus on your Strengths, not the Weaknesses
There is a high level of incongruence in the self-confidence between the men and women. I still remember the scenes outside the examination hall at our university. My female friends and I always worried about the mistakes we made in the exams. Whereas the boys used to walk out of the hall like they had just successfully launched a space craft! The scene outside the office meeting rooms looks no different. I still see women focus on their weaknesses and the flaws, and men walk out with an assurance of having delivered the best presentation. Women fail to realize that we all are a combination of strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on both can be miraculous. Building on your strengths not only boosts confidence, but also enthuses your boss and colleagues to support you.
- Find that real life role model
A decade back, as a fresh graduate, every day I entered the huge campus of an IT giant, and see 9 out of 10 in a crowd were men. Leaders and managers were all men. I wouldn’t speak much to them not share my concerns at work. Months later, I moved to a team that had a female lead. Though she was miles apart, I was more comfortable. My subconscious mind gave me a message that if she can do it, I can very well do. I began aspiring of reaching her level and I did in the next couple of years. The crux of this personal anecdote is, a woman in a senior position can use her well-deserved status to inspire other women, be that role model and empower women around her. Such a woman will be a friend in your uphill battle, showing you right path and sometimes shielding you. So, go find that role model who will help you forge ahead.
On this note, GAVS is a place where I can look up to a lot of women in senior and important roles, as strong role models who help steer the young women in the right path.
It is only when we retrospect that we realize that we could have done things a lot better, both in personal and professional fronts. When women believe, that there are no boundaries, she begins to dance to a tune of her own and reaches the pinnacle. When she learns to take the power and authority to make the choice, she’d stop saying yes when she means a no. She’d stop downplaying herself and become her own publicist. She’d stop looking at her flaws but use that as a catalyst to grow. She’d grow and lead other women to grow.
When there is an entire universe inside, why shrink like a microorganism? And to bring about a change, the old instruments of trade are to be trashed. So, stand strong, speak up and spread your wings with flamboyance, confidence and empower other women.
This article is based on the book “Lady You’re the boss” by Apurva Purohit.
About the author:
Rama is that everyday woman you see who juggles between family and a 9 hours work life. She loves reading history, fiction, attempting half marathons and traveling.
To break the monotony of life and to share her interest in books & travel, she blogs and curates at www.kindleandkompass.com