To be a woman
As a career woman, I often had a niggling feeling that I had to be what others expected me to be, in order to be successful. Whether it was the way I looked, spoke, behaved, and yes, even the way I thought about issues. In my twenties and thirties I thought the best strategy was to “conform”.
Happily, there are phases in life when things shift into perspective, like when you have kids. Or realize your parents are aging, or someone gets very sick. One day, I had an aha moment: Why was I changing who I am? The person I’m most comfortable being is me – it’s hard work being someone else. Wouldn’t the best value I added be the real me? Isn’t that what diversity offers – a rich tapestry of opinions, experiences, backgrounds, education, ability, etc.?
So I began a new phase: showing up as me and standing up for the disadvantaged, something I continue to do.
I’m sure I’m not alone. Many women are expected to “fit into” a world dominated by men, especially in leadership positions. Sure, things have slowly been changing. Private, public and other organizations are not where they were 20 years ago. For many years I was the lone non-white woman executive in boardrooms full of highly placed leaders. Joyfully, I no longer am. But there’s a long road left to travel.
Now I’m not bashing the corporate world. I chose my path carefully, knowing what I was getting into, and loving it. I wasn’t going to beat the system or knock it. But I was going to be me and show the system what that meant, in a respectful, professional, patient, smart way. That included scores of organic “teaching and coaching moments”, but most importantly, it meant producing the best results or actions I could possibly produce as a professional, without changing the woman I am. No excuses, no blaming, no finger-pointing. Just me.
The United Nations started the tradition of an annual theme for International Women’s Week in 1996. Being a change geek, I was pumped at this year’s theme: Change comes from challenge. I remember, working as a UN diplomat, the joy it gave me to celebrate each annual theme with colleagues and women in the countries I worked with.
I want to express my love, support and congratulations to women who are nurturing the world and its inhabitants, raising families, caring for their older relatives. Women who work hard every minute of the day, physically, mentally, even in their sleep, in this quest. Women who are driving change by challenging the status quo, leading by example, leading with their hearts as well as their minds. Not looking for pity or adoration but doggedly doing their best at being mothers, daughters, sisters, wives….. women.
We women can recognize and be proud of the essence of who we are. Not try to be someone else but rather to help others recognize the value that we add. Changing the world, one person at a time!
Meanwhile, I’m happy just being myself. It’s so much easier!