“Women are too self-defeating” – the notions this rising career woman no longer wants to hear or dwell on

Reasons I like being a Career woman:

  • You can wear something different to work everyday. Life is akin to a catwalk.

  • If the blogosphere and headlines are anything to go by, you’re automatically the underdog at work. I like a challenge.

It is crazy how many ‘women-should-have-more-confidence-in-themselves‘ articles I read on a weekly basis. Blogs dedicated to the ‘furthering’ of women that lambaste the very people they want to encourage for being softly spoken, unambitious and poorly equipped socially for a corporate environment. From where I’m sat it has the reverse effect to what is intended, and doesn’t really help take the conversation forward. Why reinforce stereotypes (whilst conditioning younger readers) and propagate sweeping generalisations? Rarely do I see something that promotes women seeking board positions, or looks at promoting the practice of sponsorship (vs plain mentoring) for women.

The Technovation Challenge is trying to mentor a new generation of women technologists. I’d love to actively contribute to such a programme. Marissa Meyer, Vice President at Google speaks to the programme.

Luckily, (unlike other bases for discrimination) it is agreed that women aren’t recognised or promoted. And admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving it. Some countries have legislated quotas – I’m not a fan – I imagine this has forced many an uncomfortable situation. Whether it would be an idea for them to invest less (and get more ROI) by concentrating efforts and legislation slightly lower down in the pipeline is something I’ve pondered for a while. Do we force companies to have extra women at the top, with little regard or support for their journey up? Can we legislate around the number of women at certain levels of a company with a view to having worthy candidates naturally bubble up to the top? Do we force sponsorship schemes? Just a thought.

In a similar vein, this article on having men at the table when discussing such issues raised a question that I’m still trying to evaluate the importance of: Are men talking about women’s issues? If they’re not, should we be spending time trying to get them to join the conversation, or should we spend time trying to get into those senior positions. Are they one and the same?? I’d like to maintain (as always) that I don’t view men as the enemy on this topic, I hate playing the blame game.

Inspirational You‘s last panel event ‘Media Masterclass‘ featured a very female panel. How many female senior Media execs can you name?

There seems to be a particular permalayer (or glass ceiling) for women. They rise but come to a halt at certain levels. A couple of years ago as a young female intern, it used to bug me that there were no senior women. We would go for ‘women’ intern presentations and even diversity Q&A panels to be presented with middle-aged guys, and once in a blue moon a woman would find herself on the stage. Two things confused me. The first was, why hold such an event, if you didn’t have enough women for the panel? Secondly, why were there so few women to choose from; what happens to all the women? I was often informed that there were few women because at a certain age, they all leave work (or at least get distracted from their climbing) to have children. Stupidly, I think I subconsciously accepted that line.

Now older and wiser, I don’t buy this.

I don’t buy it because not all women have children. Some don’t want to have any. Others focus on their careers, so don’t ever leave to have children, but remain at the same position until retirement. It’s ridiculous that anyone ever said that to me with a straight face and I didn’t say anything back.

I don’t buy it because at one firm, househusbands were all the rage amongst the few senior ranking women. This became a fascination for me: mutually exclusive couple careers. I asked the same question time and time again to senior women and so, for a while I actually thought this was the only way I’d ever ‘settle down’ and have a career: by planning to marry a ‘househusband’ type. If the husband is at home, handling childcare then why can’t a woman focus on her career and rise? [The rise of Jay-Z and Beyonce, as well as other similar power couples not quite so much in the public eye, has since helped me question this thesis, even at a subconscious level]

I don’t buy it because even in departments and professions that are traditionally majority female, they STILL don’t make it to senior committees, boards or C-level roles. Women who are excellent practitioners and make up the majority of a workforce should really (eventually) be entitled to a seat at such a table without being married to someone else sat at the table.

So, as a Generation Y woman ‘on her way up’, I was oddly heartened to recently hear a senior female colleague question her company management on the topic. She’s exasperated with a lot of talk and little to no action – because all that talk can become demotivating. No-one likes false promises. She proposed that they do everything they can to look externally, so they can have some form of representation on the managing board. I was heartened because it was a solution (of sorts) but in the cold light of day, it does sound a lot like “desperate times, desperate measures”.

Senior Female colleague’s question throws up the question: if all the women are off having kids and playing mum, who are the headhunters going to pick? Luckily, it’s not a question I have to answer. In my own life, as mitigation, I’m living under self-imposed ‘desperate times, desperate measures’. I’ve signed up to facilities like Levo League and am looking to join institutions like WIBF and 85 Broads.

Sheryl Sandberg’s take on the issue. She doesn’t sit exactly where I do at the moment, but she’s close.

Discourse over for now. My top 3 suggested options for this generation of career women are:

  1. Find yourself a sponsor. At least one person who is willing to help you out AND who actually believes in you. There is nothing worse than having to convince a mentor of your worth, even more so a sponsor. And we’ve all been there. They should be there to spur you on, guide you and actually provide that leg up at the critical point when you need one.
  2. Get over feeling sorry for yourself, or being subconsciously told to be sorry for yourself. Stop reading those blog posts and taking them at face value. You are not weak, over emotional or socially inept in corporate environments. You are a woman. We’re all different; deal with it. If you currently write these posts, please stop.
  3. If you don’t learn to code, sponsor a female you know to learn how to code. Things can only get better when you know a coder or two – especially as if you’re alive and reading this, chances are you’re going to have to learn to live and cope with 21st Century life.

Peace, aimafidon

7 responses to ““Women are too self-defeating” – the notions this rising career woman no longer wants to hear or dwell on

  1. I love it. I completely agree with the attitude that you should stop blamint people and feeling sorry for yourself and take responsibility for your success. And I love that you don’t suggest finding a female mentor/sponsor. I find it hyporcitical when women complain about gender bias but will then base their mentorship selection on gender. A mentor is supposed to provide guidance and advice, and advocate for you, and there’s no reason that a man can not be well suited for that job.

    • Thanks Emily. Yes – a sponsor is a sponsor and a mentor is a mentor. I’ve previously read that you should try to have at least one of each gender, but I didn’t think the reasons were sufficient. It’s about the relationship and how much you’re both able to benefit from it.

  2. Great post. I like your advice at the end about getting a sponsor. It’s all about having mentors who will support you–even if you pay a coach, I think it’s a great investment. Not feeling sorry for yourself is key, as long as you give yourself enough time to rest, and self love. These things are critical so that you don’t feel burnt out because you aren’t treating yourself with love and affection when you need rest/recovery. Keep up asking the good questions!

    • Thanks Blake. I will keep asking! I’ve only recently seen how having a Coach, Mentor and Sponsor can work for someone, but I’m still deciding whether I need one just yet. Luckily my mentors + sponsors suffice for the moment.

  3. great post. I have a career coach and it’s the best opportunity. I, too, am tired of hearing and reading pieces aimed at helping women succeed. It’s something I want to offer others because I have a lot to share, but I care about succeeding outside of the trappings of traditional female culture. I care about succeeding professionally. period.

  4. Pingback: The case for women leadership in Technology and beyond – my month on the East coast | A-Marie Imafidon : blog·

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