Each of us, male or female, form our identity using a combination of who we are inside and what the outside world feeds back to us. It's the latter that creates a problem for ambitious women. When people around us make it clear they don't see our gender as leaders, through actions or lack of action, it is more difficult for us to believe it as well.
We women face unnecessary scrutiny regarding our bodies. Those who weight-shame will often use the excuse that they are just concerned about our health; but rather, it stems from paternal, controlling judgement. We need to love the woman in the mirror, to embrace our individuality and celebrate our unique selves.
Back in the 1970s, there were few positive female role models as business leaders. We live in an information age, we need leaders who are great communicators, understand the need for team work, and can bring a nurturing spirit to the workplace. Women are naturally effective in these areas. Although women have not yet achieved quite the salary equity of men, nor rule the majority of Fortune 500 companies, this is all changing as women step into their natural leadership capacities. Good leadership does not require a particular gender, but an individual who has developed good character, integrity and wisdom.
In an era where women are still struggling to be recognized and paid for their leadership skills, it is a frustrating message that one's best shot at elevating her status is to wait patiently for opportunity to appear. Rather than sitting around waiting for a Fairy Godmother to magically deliver your next promotion, here are five movie-inspired steps you can take to prove you are a capable leader and elevate your status at work.
Canada has an opportunity to take the lead just as we have in so many other issues of equality and fairness. The time for excuses has long elapsed. Engineers, and schools in particular, need to be prepared to take a long hard look inwards to the often unconscious prejudices and biases that have remained untouched for too long.
Once upon a time, you decided to take a few months away from your career to spend time with your new baby, or tend to a sick relative, or start your own business. Perhaps those months turned into years and you now find yourself wanting to return to the workforce. Don't despair. By following the six steps below, you can take control of the back-to-work process and will restart your career in no time.
My first career was as a dancer. Then, suddenly, that dream was over. About 10 years ago, the first incarnation of a more specific dream-within-a-dream began creeping tentatively from my mind. Spurred by that voice, my dream today takes the form of Ottawa's seventh annual Women in Business conference.
Over the years that I spent in various roles, I saw evidence of the impact in changing culture. Transformation of human resource policies made the path for women's advancement less fraught with pitfalls and unconscious bias. Images of women's role and abilities became more positive. I remember being told that I was very "ambitious" as if it was something to be ashamed of as a woman.
By coincidence, just as the Academy Awards were being handed out, our executive recruitment firm, Rosenzweig & Company, was getting ready to release its 10th annual Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada. The findings show that wage equality, while important, is just part of the issue. The reality is that even if women in Canada achieve complete wage equality at every level, there are far too few women in the highest paid corporate executive positions positioned to reap that reward.
Each of us has a story about who we are, the work we do, the people we love, or even why we arrive late to the office. We live each day according to these stories, seeing and believing the information that reinforces them and ignoring the rest. My participation in the reality TV show, "Who Lives Here?," precipitated this a-ha moment for me.
It's time to challenge the label that women are risk averse. Why do we assume that risk taking as defined by male approaches is always a positive approach in business or anywhere else for that matter? It is time that we really looked at the whole question of how women see risk and the impact of the differing perspectives and stop simply judging them against male standards.
On my desk is a glass paperweight with an important question carved on one side. "What would you do if you had no fear?" it says. Seeing the inquiry, a friend asked for my response, and without hesitation I answered, "Give up perfectionism." She casually suggested that that would be a good New Year's resolution, and I felt the fear rise in my chest. Could I be successful in the world without trying to attain perfection?
To make the most of your energy you need to know yourself. What people, places and situations give you energy and which ones take it away? In the same way that the successful sailor stops to feel the wind, you must feel your energy. What energizes each of us it is different and there are no right or wrong answers. What catches my sail might leave you stranded at the dock.
The guys I worked with teased me. They saw me as a hospitable female underling, lucky to be included at a sales meeting. I continued to disarm them with copious levels of service and their unconscious bias prevented them from seeing me as competition. By 1989, I was promoted to be a Vice President in head office and had leap frogged over most all of the guys in that meeting!