When I was eight years old I campaigned to my Grade 3 teacher to join the football team. After months of arguments, he relented and approved my attendance at the afternoon training session. After the third lap of the oval I decided football was boring and went home. My actions were never driven by a strong desire to play the game of football. I simply wanted to share in the privilege of having Friday afternoons off, to move my body and meet kids from other schools. At that time being a boy in the football team was the only way to do that.
I thought my days contemplating gender inequities were over but on reflection it raised its head when choosing my career path. At university I chose a major that few girls selected. Upon graduating I wanted to work in male dominated organisations. When I look back, the decisions I made were not coming from my heart but from a drive to show the world that I could compete with men. I mastered my skills of logic, direct communication, black and white thinking. My intent was to stand out amongst men. But what I was really doing was blending in with them.
And I don't think I was alone in this quest. Women before us have fought hard to have what we have today in the workplace. And there is no doubt that women working in today's times are in gratitude to be the first generation to be the "lucky women". We have the right to work, to have babies and be able to enjoy career paths, and to be listened to and respected as equals. But I often wonder in this much needed fight for equality, did we somewhere lose ourselves in the process? Did we join Grade 3 football when really all we wanted to do was dance?
Because now more than ever before, women are feeling the weight of their responsibilities, the heaviness of their burdens and the dullness of their lives. Despite having now ticked many things off our wish list, we are now working harder than ever, juggling more responsibilities, and pushing ourselves to the point of longing for holidays, alcohol or anxiety tabs to take the edge off. And in some cases we are sacrificing our lives for jobs, or more importantly methods, that aren't actually true to us. Have we got where we wanted only to realize that we had to sacrifice all of the ways that come second nature to us as women? In the week of International Women's Day, It's an interesting time to stop and reflect:
Has the modern woman who has come so far, lost her way?
Because if the answer is yes, that's a problem. A major problem. Because right now , this world needs women. But not just any women. Women who can fearlessly lead with their hearts. Who can bring their beauty and inspire through the fullness of their sensual female qualities. Women who are soft enough to soothe the pain of the men around them. Women who are bold enough to soothe the pain of the world.
The business world needs women. But the call can't be answered from a place of exhaustion, overwhelm, burden and stress. It can't be answered from a place of ego, control and fear. Nor can it be answered by the masculine living in a woman's body. To answer the call, the female way must be fully embraced again. A way that has been shunned, criticized, mocked, buried for as long as our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers can remember. We've copied the male way in the workplace because that was the only model of success. We've developed our male characteristics like judgement, analysis and logic. Because they were the qualities that were rewarded. We left our beautiful clothes and jewellery on their hangers at home and instead opted for suits, padded shoulders and bland colours. Because toning things down would be the only way we'd be taken seriously. We looked in judgement at fellow sisters who were emotional and passionate and told them "that's not the way you succeed in this world".
I don't think I'm alone in having, at some point, designed and lived a life based on avoiding the criticism of men. Criticism that potentially existed in my head. Or being a woman who at some point in their lives have lived in complete fear of being themself. We were fooled by the allure of the masculine way. But now the impetus is here to finally be ourselves. Because there are already some amazing men doing business. It's time to support them and bring something new.
"I put my armour on every day as I leave for the office" she told me in one of our coaching sessions. One day as I walked the city buildings I could see this reflected in so many others. Bodies tight, jaws clenched and frown lines reflecting the weight of the resentment. The joy of being a woman is nowhere in sight between the hours of nine to five. And this is becuase many women have gone through a long period of confusion. Because there have only been two models that have been presented to us. The first one is the aggressive woman who judges, belittles, is in control and lives in her (highly intelligent) head, who can leave her emotions at the door and you will never see her heart. The other one is the emotional, irrational, out of control, unprofessional, and let's face it "a bit crazy" one. It's time for a new model. Because as women we have the potential to be so much more than either of those. To bring in a style that shows you can have a successful business and still have ease, joy and flow. A business that balances numbers with deep care. One that can still be abundant without harming the earth and the people who live on it. You know this model. It is deep inside of you.
I am sending out a call to all of the business women of this world. Not because I am pointing a finger of blame or accusation, but because deep down I know that to wake up the corporate structures of the world, we need to first wake up their women. Starting with me. And you. And whoever else knows in their heart that this invitation is for them.