March 8th is marked as International Women’s Day. In light of the occasion, I would like to take the opportunity to share a message with all my women friends, and also all those of you who have women in your lives as mothers, sisters, colleagues and partners.
I am a woman leader. From the bottom of my heart, I truly believe women can do anything. They can be anything that men can. There is no doubt about this.
At the same time, we have to admit that historically, society has been built mainly by and for men. There are still some characteristics that are ‘male’ and not necessarily favourable for women.
With that in mind, I would like to share three messages:
- Be Authentic
It is true that people are different – men, women, LGBTQIA+ and other diverse sexualities. This is not about bias, but a perspective of difference.
Sometimes, especially if you are in a male dominant organisation, you may face – as I have – situations when your male managers or colleagues may advise you to be different from who you are.
They may not have any bad intentions and maybe share advice just for your sake but you may get confused. For example, when I was told I should be stronger, I was at a loss. What do you mean by strong?
Sometimes men tend to be fierce during negotiations at meetings. On the other hand, if a woman does the same, she is told, ‘Your manner is too aggressive.’
People, including myself, share their views as seen through their own glasses. There is no neutral opinion. It’s literally impossible to make everyone happy.
So rather than being confused, my tentative conclusion in my journey as a woman leader has been to be authentic to myself. If I am soft, I allow myself to be soft. At the same time, I try to be professional. This does not mean that I give up being soft but that I develop my skills with a sense of clarity.
I don’t want my female friends to pretend like someone else. If you pretend like a man, there’s no point in having you in the organisation. Let’s be authentic. That’s the beauty of diversity. Be yourself. Be genuine.
- Believe In Yourself (Know We Are Different)
It is widely known that across countries, the average salaries of men and women are different. Salaries for women are relatively lower. This obviously has a historical context.
But, did you know? If there are new opportunities or projects, men raise their hands even if they are not fully equipped for the job. Meanwhile, women would never do so until they are 90-95% confident about their capability. This is not about history, but it is our difference now.
As a society, it is important for us to know this statistical fact – Women tend to be perfectionists in the face of new challenges or projects.
We need to encourage ourselves to dare to challenge, dare to take risks and even dare to fail. By raising our hands and taking action.
Many women, including myself, talk about the lack of self-confidence or tendencies of being perfectionists. When I read The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, a book written by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, I was surprised to know that from a neuroscientific point of view, a woman’s brain typically has a tendency of rumination.
Women are always checking out everything happening around them, trying to understand, thinking of risk scenarios – these characteristics can potentially prevent us from thinking about solutions or conclusions.
Knowing this was very eye-opening for me. The lack of confidence is not only because of culture, background, education but also biological differences in brain structures. This fact is important to know. Acting before and after knowing this fact can make a tremendous difference.
- Dare to act out of comfort zone
So my 3rd message is, knowing these facts of differences, consciously take action. Stop doubting yourself. Feel confident. Take a step ahead. Be fearless.
Try to do something that is out of your comfort zone. It may feel scary – I hear you and feel the same. But let’s try! Worrying about somewhere will lead you nowhere. Only our actions can change tomorrow. You may fail, but that’s alright. It’s a result of your daring action. Embrace that failure, learn from it and you will grow.
I strongly believe women will build the future of the world. Happy Women’s Day!