By Meg Jones.
Being a woman is complex. We no longer live in a man’s world, that was far too simple. We live in a world where our kids are 150% more tech savvy than we are, where ‘40’ is the new ‘30’, where a mum with four kids and a CE job, is also on three boards and does Iron Women on the weekends. Our social feeds are full of 500 of our closest fabulous friends taking regular overseas vacations, who have fabulous teeth, are dressed by Kate Sylvester, do yoga and weekly juice cleanses.
The magazines are right – there is so much pressure on us as women to have it all. But is it realistic? More than one high profile woman has come out in the last 12 months that has admitted that you know what, you can’t – and that’s ok!
That level of vulnerability was displayed at an International Women’s Day event, hosted by the Institute of Directors, Business Women’s Network, Trustpower and CA ANZ that Lisa and I attended last week.
Seven different speakers (Julie Hazelhurst, Bronwyn Hudson, Ngapera Riley, Clare Swallow, Dr Tom Mulholland, Deborah Workman and Kristin Dunne) shared their personal and professional experiences as women (and for Tom, as a father of a high performing daughter).
Each speaker spoke of their lives in a real way. The suicidal thoughts, the overwhelming effect of trolling, the uncomfortable feeling you get when asked at work to do something that doesn’t fit your value structure, helping a spouse through depression, and so much more.
Common themes quickly emerged – authenticity, kindness and harnessing your super power.
Authenticity is knowing who you are, owning that, then allowing yourself to operate within that environment. Several of the speakers provided examples of how they realised they were in the wrong jobs when their careers no longer allowed them to bring their own authenticity to a role.
I am grateful to be in a position where I can be my authentic self, and it’s not lost on me this Women’s Day that many women have to suppress their authenticity in jobs they can’t afford to lose, no matter how wrongly aligned they are.
Authenticity is also something we talk a lot about with our clients. Being an authentic employer means like-minded people will be drawn to your business. It becomes part of your brand and allows you to build your tribe.
Kindness is a trait I hope that I carry into both my personal and professional life. My thought being that if everyone went into every situation or potential conflict with an attitude of kindness, imagine how much better off we’d all be?
Make no doubt – in a room full of professional women and six female high-achieving speakers, there was a lot of kindness – a safe space to acknowledge your own vulnerability.
Looking at several of the panel leaders who I knew (or knew of their leadership style), I was struck by the strength of that kindness in some pretty intense professional situations for them. That one trait making them stand out from others fronting the same chaotic situation.
Every single person has a super power, not just Bat Girl or Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. Once we figure out what that is, we can harness it to our advantage. Less about nefarious stuff, more about aligning those skills within your own authenticity.
I have had several colleagues with incredible super powers. One wahine toa I know is able to sit silently at a table full of hotly arguing people, then after a suitable length of time to gather the gist of the debate, will quietly and calmly surmise the situation offering solutions where both parties can win, or at least save face. Epic.
I asked around what mine is – apparently I possess much of the same traits as a golden retriever. But kindness was one of those traits, so I’ll own it.
In a world where some days it seems women are judged by just being, it was a pleasure to spend time with like-minded women (and a handful of brave men) sharing their experiences, offering support and drivers for success.
Strength comes when we stand together, united. Whether it’s committing to speaking up against injustice, to supporting our fellow woman (or man), or simply being kind within our everyday interactions.
Stand tall wahine of Aotearoa – we’re a pretty awesome lot.