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It's only hard if...

Recently I went to a women's networking event that was at a beautiful hotel looking over the shores of Lake Michigan. I was interested in the speaker, Julie Holder because of what she's done in her professional career. Plus, the luncheons are a way to get to know the needs of our community - which spreads as far south as Grand Rapids. Some of the women literally drive several hours just to network with other women in businesses.

At any rate, our speaker explained her history of working in a male dominated field. She had a very successful career as the senior VP at Dow Chemical and then went on to create her own management advising company. What she realized through her experience was that gender reflects heavily on the roles within a company. Women and men communicate very differently and because of that, women are usually kept at certain roles while men move up the ladder at a much faster rate. She didn't even touch on the differences in salary.

I found this all very interesting, at first. Then I started to wonder what would bridge the gap in business as far as males and females being leaders. It occurred to me that our belief system (that of women) is what might need to be the first thing to change. Let me explain....

During the speech, Julie asked a variety of questions about how many of the women in the room shared with their superiors things they accomplished or created. I was flabbergasted by how many women in the room said on a scale from 1 - 10, they gave themselves a score of 2 or 3 when it came to self promotion at their current job. In a nut shell, they felt their work should speak for itself and they didn't feel comfortable bringing up their ideas and strategic advances in front of their superiors.

I couldn't believe it. I was surrounded by women of all different careers, every single one of them either working to support a business, managing a business or running their own business. And yet, almost all of them were not comfortable promoting their own job performance.

The number one reason.... they were concerned with how it would go over - would they be likable or not. Would someone judge them as being "proud" "selfish" "not a team player" or God forbid, "Bitchy." My mind literally exploded when I heard this. The speaker went on to say the interesting fact about being a woman is that we need to be competent AND likeable. Not one or the other. Is it really true that women are judged on a different bar than men in business? I keep hearing the monologue in the 2023 Barbie movie:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong. You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can't ask for money because that's crass. You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean. You have to lead, but you can't squash other people's ideas. You're supposed to love being a mother, but don't talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining. You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It's too hard! It's too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know.

How about we give ourselves some grace. How about we remind each other that we are all doing the very best we can. How about we all remember that we can support one another in ways that are more authentic, more about the wild, and actually believable human part of ourselves, not what ladder we are climbing. How about we stop believing that "someone" is keeping us under their thumbs, when it's really our own beliefs that are keeping us there.

One of my absolute favorite poems on the planet is "Our deepest fear" by Marianne Williamson

As I left that luncheon I wanted to give every single woman in the room a copy of this brilliant reminder. Keep your chin up, let your light shine!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It does not matter what you "do" in this life. Whatever it might be, give it all you've got with JOY and PASSION. Keep your heart and mind open to learning everything you can - because we don't know what we don't know. There really is a way of being where everything becomes easier just because of our mindset.

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YES, let your light shine!

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