Recently I was invited to speak at the Inaugural Women in Insurance Summit in Sydney alongside my good friend Demetra Day, a respected senior leader in the finance and insurance sector. Together we spoke to over 200 delegates and debunked myths on what it means to be a resilient female leader.
Believe it or not, but there are still women who think that in order to succeed in their work, or be seen as successful, they need to act in a more masculine and aggressive way.
And while no-one in the room put their hand up when we asked if they actually agreed with this, many women subconsciously fear being authentic in their role as a leader and end up being overly masculine in order to fit in and for fear of not being accepted for who they are.
This doesn’t just happen in the workplace. It can happen at home, with family and in social groups because women are leaders in many facets of life.
What was agreed on by many women present at the conference is that the models of leadership as experienced by women in the workplace today are outdated and need to change. Of course, things are changing but change is slow and sometimes painstaking. Nonetheless, change is happening and collectively we need to embrace the change.
Whilst women intellectually know that they can’t fit the old patriarchal ways of leading, it also isn’t easy to step into our more feminine ways as a leader so as to be more authentic. Why is this still so hard?
Hillary Clinton put it well a few years ago:
“Here is my dilemma…as a woman in a high public position or seeking the presidency as I am, you have to be aware of how people will judge you for being, quote, ‘emotional.’ And so, it’s a really delicate balancing act—how you navigate what is still a relatively narrow path—to be yourself, to express yourself, to let your feelings show, but not in a way that triggers all of the negative stereotypes.”
So what can we do to challenge old models and embrace change in leadership style?
As female leaders, here’s what we need to remind ourselves to do:
Let go of old models of leadership; embrace change and and open up conversations on new-age leadership.
Speak up and share your opinion and ideas – if you don’t, someone else will and then you’ll be kicking yourself. And if you do share them, and someone else takes claim or says exactly what you said, just look them in the eyes and tell them “I just said that”.
Ask for what you want. But before you do, get really clear on what it is that you want and why.
Don’t assume things won’t be actioned or listened to, especially when it comes to harassment in the workplace. Check the facts and your rights.
Cynicism won’t fix things. If you want to be taken seriously, then take seriously what is happening to you by calling out poor behaviour in the workplace. (this applies in any facet of your life).
Stay focused on making an impact and being on purpose.
Be open to growth and learning. When receiving constructive criticism- don’t let emotions hijack you. Be honest with yourself about what you need to change.
Develop a network of trusted colleagues and mentors to whom you can turn to for support, advice and wisdom.
The Empowered Woman Live Retreat
If you are looking for a way to learn how to use your feminine authenticity to create a more meaningful life (both at work and home), then I invite you to join me at one of my next The Empowered Woman Live Retreats.
It is the perfect opportunity to gift yourself the time and space to gain a clear understanding of your values and create deeper meaning in all areas of your life.