"Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world." ~ Hillary Clinton
In honor of Women's History Month, this is the second of a two-part series. In my last blog, Women: Discovering Our Power and Voice at Any Age, I discussed why finding our power as women continues to be an issue, especially for those of us in our middle-age or older years. Now, let's talk about HOW we can find our voice no matter our age.
Follow Our Dreams
Following our passion and "bliss" is one of the most powerful ways of claiming our power -- to step into our light. In her interview on my internet radio program, Tresa Leftenant, investment advisor and author of Reinventing Her: Helping Women Plan, Pursue, and Capitalize Their Next Chapter, spoke about the power of women consciously reinventing ourselves in our mid-life years to follow our dreams and "make our life better." She described the Four Pillars of Reinvention written about in her book. "Number one is giving up what you should do for what you were born to do. What I invite people to do is really look at your life and ask, 'Where am I living from old-fashioned ideas about what my life should look like?' I think that really causes us unhappiness and pain in a lot of ways. Reinvention is really about discovering what we were born to do ... what makes our heart sing ... and to unhook from that 'should.'"
As Kathy Sparrow, empowerment coach, author, and founder of Writing at Your Edge, stated, when she was also on my program, "When we start to live our own story, that's when we really come alive, that's when we really start living. It's important for each of us to recognize that we all have a right to live our own lives based on what we believe is true for us. Many of us have been taught that we have to take care of everybody and then, if there's anything left at the end of the day, we can make ourselves happy. That's what I call the 'supporting role.' We really need to put ourselves first and, when we do that, we show up better for everybody around us."
You can read more about how to follow your dream in my previous blog, Follow Your Dream No Matter Your Age.
We can take quantum leaps toward making the types of changes that will improve our own lives and improve our world by knowing that we can. "Taking responsibility is claiming our power to have the life we really want. As women, we often need to work at reclaiming our power around our financial situation," said Leftenant. She discussed finding what she terms our money mojo in order to overcome this obstacle and reclaim our power around money. According to Leftenant, in order to have increased financial power and financial health, "We just have to identify those parts of us that can really serve us. For example, when you focus your skill on your ability to research or your ability to speak well, whatever it is that is your strength, and you apply that to a conversation about asking to be paid fairly, you start to see that it's really possible."
Know Our Power as Women
Each of us, men and women alike, have both male and female energies or qualities within us. We are functioning at our best and achieving our highest level of well-being when these two energies are balanced. We often focus on the more male qualities of taking action and aggressively moving forward on our path as a way to achieve our goals and come into our power. These are, no doubt, important pieces to the puzzle. However, one of the obstacles that women and men have run into, while doing this, is that, when ignoring the feminine qualities in each of us, we give up a very important part of our power as complete human beings. Women, in particular have had this problem, trying to compensate for the obstacles that we have come across as women. This has meant giving up a large portion of who we are rather than using our female energy to our advantage. While the male attributes, which are typically described as those of being action-oriented, aggressive, and analytic, for example, are very important in having a powerful voice, the female energies -- such as intuition, compassion, creativity, social connection and collaboration, communication, and multitasking, among others -- when balanced with the male attributes, have all been found to be linked to greater levels of success and greater contributions to the world.
In her article, 7 Leadership Traits We Can Learn From Female Elephants, Aura Alex writes, "The elephant alpha-female emerges not according to the strongest or most aggressive personality, but on account of the respect earned by other elephants. She demonstrates leadership through her wisdom, strength, and her extraordinary skills in: problem-solving; social intelligence; openness; decisiveness; patience; confidence; compassion." These are all qualities that middle-aged and older women tend to share and are ones that we can enhance, rather than hide.
Support Each Other, Collaborate, Form Relationships, Mentor Each Other
Most of the gains I've made in finding my own power and voice have come with the support of other women, both through female peers and through being mentored by other successful women. There is tremendous power in women supporting women. Surrounding ourselves with women of all ages who want to assist each other in following our paths is so powerful that it has been found to have a chemical effect in reducing stress hormones and increasing feelings of happiness. This also helps us in developing those female role models who show us that our own success is possible and that a woman's voice can be powerful. In addition, collaboration and networking between women have been found to lead to greater success for women.
In her article, 12 Things Successful Women Do Differently, Emma Gray, the Executive Women's Editor at The Huffington Post, writes, "Having a support network is key to being successful. Keeping up your friendships and forming new ones at every place you work makes you happier and helps your career later on." I have seen that every relationship that I have built along my journey has been a tremendous asset when creating the life that I want.
And, finally, there is power in numbers. If we want to be sure that we have a voice that is heard, we need to join with other women to create a unified voice that says, "We have a lot to offer. Don't ignore us." And, I might add, that it doesn't hurt when there are supportive men, cheering us on from the sidelines. If we stand up for each other and don't accept our sisters being demeaned for the way they look, for being "too old," or for being women, we can change our culture toward one that respects what women have to offer at any age and for our expertise when we have the benefit of years and experience behind us.
As the iconic feminist and founder of Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem has written, "Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke ... She will need her sisterhood."
Let's remember that every bit of progress we have made in our own lives, as women, toward living out loud, in our power, and in the light, has been made possible by, not only our own hard work and perseverance, but on the backs of the pioneering women before us, who literally put their lives on the line for us to be able to do so. It is our responsibility to our foremothers, to continue their work, be good role models for the generations of women who will follow us, and to have the backs of our sisters as they share their voices in the world. For, when one woman is assaulted, demeaned, or denied her worth, it affects every one of us.