Women and the power of one

by Contributor08 Mar 2018

Women must stop believing that if they work hard they will be noticed and pay rises, bonuses and promotions will follow; instead they should put up their hand and ask, writes Avril Henry

I believe one of the biggest challenges in relation to gender in both society and workplaces, is the language we use when we talk about, and to, both boys and girls, men and women. For decades we have referred to strong-willed, opinionated girls as “bossy” or “bossy boots”, a term seldom if ever used to describe confident boys. It is always tongue-in-cheek, yet ultimately, a derogatory term. We say boys who are strong, opinionated and self-confident are “natural leaders” or are “born to lead.” We tell girls that “nice girls don’t ask, nice girls don’t raise their voices, nice girls don’t talk about themselves”.

Is it any wonder that so many women lack confidence at work, and suffer from the Imposter Syndrome? We have socialised girls and women to have less self-confidence! Research shows 75% of women (and 25% of men) suffer from the syndrome, which simply means: “What if people find out I am not as smart/good/competent as they think I am?”

The result is that women are still not grabbing opportunities with both hands? The Power of One is recognising that no one is more interested in your career than you, and that you can and must manage it yourself! Women must stop believing that if they work hard they will be noticed and pay rises, bonuses and promotions will follow. That is simply not going to happen. Stop waiting to be noticed or asked, put up your hand and speak up.

You cannot lead others until you are willing, and understand how, to lead yourself. My tips for effective self-leadership are:

  • Life is about choices, make them wisely, and remember every choice has consequences
  • Don’t be limited by others’ opinions of you. Women need to care a lot less about what other people think of them. My grandmother used to say: “What someone thinks of you is none of your business!”
  • Take calculated risks, and don’t be afraid of failure. Be willing to learn from failure, not be paralysed by it! Women tend to be more risk averse than men
  • Be passionate about what you do. If you aren’t, you may be in the wrong job or career
  • Spend quiet time reflecting, switch off from the digital world; you will be surprised by your capacity for innovative ideas
  • Learn the importance of “letting go”
  • Self-care is essential, not selfish
  • Believe in yourself, if you don’t believe in yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to believe in you.

As leaders, even of simply ourselves, we have the power to change and keep moving forward to a more inclusive future. In the words of the great Martin Luther King: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (1963).’ I feel the same about equality, inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere! Women can, and must, make a difference – it starts with self.

About the author
Avril Henry is an executive coach, keynote speaker, author and Managing Director of Avril Henry & Associates, a leadership development consulting business.  Her most recent book Leadership Revelations III How We Achieve the Gender Tipping Point, was launched by the previous Chief of Army and Australian of the Year 2017. Enquiries to www.avrilhenry.com.au