International Women’s Day… A confession….

Women in Leadership

I have a confession to make.  Despite being a woman, a part of me feels a little frustrated at what I see onto social media around IWD.  Now bear with me for just a few paragraphs…. 

It’s not that I think women should be suffering injustice in the world.  I am disgusted by child brides, FGM, gender pay gaps and girls being judged as princesses only.  There are places in the world where women are most definitely treated as second class or even non-citizens, denied education and opportunity.  That’s something we should all get angry about, as a matter of human rights.

Bias in our employment, opportunities and decisions is not OK.

But there comes a time when we have to move beyond the ‘give women a leg up so they can be equal’ narrative.  It has some potentially damaging undertones.

Advice for women, is advice for all of us

I came across this list of the ‘5 signs you’re an independent woman’

  1. You don’t rely on anyone else to make you happy
  2. You don’t fear spending time alone
  3. You are in complete control of your finances
  4. You know what makes you happy
  5. You have goals and plans to achieve them

These are all reasonable pieces of advice.  And they all apply as equally to PEOPLE!

To be emotionally self-supporting is a skill for all of us.  I know plenty of men who are in co-dependent relationships (romantic or otherwise) looking for external validation and reassurance.  Some of us are introvert.  Some of us are extrovert.  Some of us are comfortable to sit with our own thoughts and spend nurturing time alone.  When I look around me, I see very few of my female friends economically trapped – or at least not because of their gender (more likely due to parenthood).  Everyone deserves to discover what makes them happy and grow the deserved-ness and curiosity to go out and seek it.  All of us have dreams which scare us, needing support and energy to go out and achieve them.

Gender is no longer binary

According to the Intersex Campaign for Equality ‘The most thorough existing research finds intersex people to constitute an estimated 1.7% of the population*, which makes being intersex about as common as having red hair (1%-2%).’

Our gender is made up of physical gender traits, chromosomes and hormones.  Its possible to have any combination of male or female traits in each.  And that’s just the physical story.  As society becomes more tolerant and people more able than ever to live and love as their hearts and souls feel, every permutation of sexual orientation is (thank goodness) becoming accepted.

Gender is no longer binary and pushing a day for women risks pushing down others.

Men and Women are not so different

In my work as a coach, I’m very careful to avoid marketing to men or women.  I see people.  Every person who walks into my coaching room or joins me virtually is an individual.  To be understood, supported and inspired in a way which supports their uniqueness in the world.

Most people struggle because their beliefs are in some way limiting, negative and almost always untrue.  With clients, it’s the same untrue limiting beliefs that come up time and time again, regardless of gender:

  • Feeling judged by others
  • Not feeling good enough
  • Low confidence
  • Self-destructive habits
  • Unkind and dis-empowering thoughts

I have a female client who has discovered how she grew up in an environment where it was not OK to be feeling and is now learning how to express her emotions.  

I have a male client who came to me with such low self-esteem that he binge ate, hated how he looked and was convinced his girlfriend would leave him.

The popular rhetoric would expect these two cases to be the other way around.  Whilst outward behaviours may differ, that many people struggle with the same limiting beliefs says we are really not so different underneath.

Some advice to empower women carries the energy of damage.

I feel uncomfortable when I read articles which aim to boost women, but from an energy of expecting all women to be damaged in some way.  The insinuation here is ‘at the hands of men’.  Again, I am not intending to brush over the physical and physiological abuse which many women have experienced whether through family, bullying, romantic relationships or controlling regimes. 

But if we keep framing it this way. Firstly, we whitewash that men can equally be victims of abuse.  Secondly, we risk demonising men.  And that is damaging to both genders.

For women it perpetuates the idea that men are more aggressive and to be feared and risen up against.  For men… well for the majority of men its totally unfair.

What if we taught everyone how to nurture self respect, and the skills to communicate and manage relationships without violence or abuse?

Mental health gap

In the UK, the male suicide rate is 15.5 deaths per 100,000. Suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. And a marked gender split remains. For UK women, the rate is a third of men’s: 4.9 suicides per 100,000.

Enough said.

Stop pointing at gender bias in the system as the issue

It wasn’t until I was about 30 that I looked back and realised, that I had a really gender neutral childhood.  Whilst my Mum sent me to ballet in an attempt to bring some grace to my movement; my Dad was teaching me how aircraft and engines worked.  I grew up with plenty of limitations about who I was and what I was capable of; but none of them were linked to my gender.  Which gives me a curious and I now realise unusual view of the world.

Without the ‘but I’m a girl’ set of beliefs, I have persistently failed to recognise and blindly ignored any of the societal bias around what girls and boys could do.  If you don’t see a thing, then you can’t be impacted by it.  I’ve never looked at a promotion and thought that I can’t go for that because I’m a woman.

As a society we often seem to blame the system.  The employment policies and gender bias laws.  We create ‘women’s networks and targets to balance the number of men and women at different levels and pay grades in an organisation.  All important.  But if we focus on the system only, creating special measures for women alone (which basically tell everyone that women are ‘special needs’ and need a leg up) we’re missing the point.  We should be raising children and encouraging each other to just not recognise gender as a factor in determining our futures.

Instead of getting angry at what’s on the outside, the system we operate in; lets quietly build confidence from within and surpass the system!

Raise self-esteem for everyone

Everyone deserves to live a full life.  That means focusing on lifting up PEOPLE, all people.  As a coach I hold strong core beliefs about PEOPLE and what is possible for them.  I seek to grow these with every client.  Every individual is at a different place in their evolution.  Everyone has a character, beliefs, values and purpose that is unique to them.  I’ve found that almost everyone can benefit from a little more of these resources, wherever they are lacking:

  • A feeling of deserved-ness and value
  • Ability to emotionally self support and nurture
  • Release of any hurts or trauma from the past
  • Forgiveness, compassion and patience
  • Happiness and resilience in the now
  • Vision for the future, dreams and aspirations
  • Energy, conviction and faith to achieve it

Ultimately, self-love! 

We all have masculine and feminine energy

You might be thinking that I’m on some sort of mission to wipe out feminine and masculine traits and create an androgynous society.  Far from it.  We need the masculine energy traits to lead, provide, be assertive and direct.  We equally need the female energy traits of intuition, receiving, nurturing and grace.

But neither is specific to our gender.  I’ve watched women push through herculean physical challenges, with tremendous courage and drive.  I’ve also watched friends as new fathers completely lost in awe at their child.

In summary

Rather than focusing on promoting women, lets promote PEOPLE.  Let’s all work to make sure we, and our children feel as equally loved and secure.  Free to be and express who we are with confidence.  Eyes wide open to opportunities and possibilities.  We are all uniquely wonderful.  Let’s support each other…. Full stop.

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