It has to be said, women have come such a long way in business. We are doing well on the surface of things and yet, if we scratch this same surface, there are many things that still need to be addressed.
Dannie-Lu Carr, co-founder of The Five Gateways, explains further:
How to be assertive in business
Because we still have a very strong gender-bias, conscious or otherwise, within the majority of workplaces, many women feel the need to behave in what is often perceived as ‘a more masculine way’ in order to be taken as seriously as the men. It very quickly becomes an assertiveness issue because being assertive, and therefore staying in charge, is not about becoming a ball-breaking battle-axe.
Assertiveness is about being able to react to the right person about the right thing at the right time and to the right degree. It’s about being responsive and appropriate and in order to be in that state we also need to have some degree of vulnerability (note here that vulnerability is not the same thing as weakness!) It isn’t always an easy thing to do but it is absolutely crucial that we try and strike this balance.
Yet, as women, through a deep need to be seen, heard and develop some self-preservation in our still often biased world, we tend to exercise our more ‘masculine’ qualities and push down our ‘feminine’. In doing this, we are missing the obvious; if women feel that we have to push down our femininity to accomplish and exercise only our masculinity, then we aren’t doing an awful lot to promote the equality cause because we are maintaining a system that is out of balance.
I have done it myself and therefore speak from experience – as a woman who runs her own business, holds her own mortgage and also runs the home, it can be easy to feel the need to prove a point. And yet, proving such a point achieves very little other than disconnection through lack of authenticity and also, pure exhaustion. It is incredibly tiring to hold up the masculine self all day long in public only to get home at the end of the day and feel not only alone (disconnected) but also incredibly vulnerable and tired – to feel that the feminine side of us has been abandoned or ignored.
This can then cause us to feel like we have failed somehow or we aren’t tough enough and we need to ‘man up’ if we really are to be a business success in this world. The following day, cue more of a self-protected battle-axe. And so it continues. The effects on us are devastating because internally we become more and more polarized and have more and more inner conflict. Increasingly we become less authentic, less energized and less effective.
I’m not for one moment suggesting we suddenly do a complete u-turn and act in the complete opposite way. I do, though, think it is helpful to address the key qualities of both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and why we need both to have a successful and balanced business world that supports both genders equally – clients, leaders and teams alike – as we head into the future.
So what might masculine qualities represent then (and it isn’t men who just possess these by the way) and also feminine qualities (also not just possessed by women, funnily enough)? It is these stereotypes in the first place the probably get us confused and make us think ball-breaking battle-axe is the only option.
So let’s rethink:
Flexibility key to business success
To be successful in business one needs to be able to listen, speak, take risks, step back, collaborate, make decisions, empathise, have some single-mindedness, understand, care, be rational, strategise, be people-focused, be business-focused, be confident, be humble, be ambitious, be realistic… you get the point? We cannot be successful unless we are flexible, and in flexibility we need the options and the permissions to access both our ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits.
Real success also requires a sense of balance inside such flexibility – by holding our authentic selves, our strengths and also knowing when we need to bring in someone or something else to make something work well.
These are surely the traits of good leadership and if there is good leadership then there will be success in business and all without a ball-breaking battle-axe in sight.
As a closing thought, there are points in this article that equally apply to the men. Both genders need to authentically embody all of their qualities to be their best and to work at their most effective. Men need to let go of ideas of being a ball-breaking battle-axe as much as the women. Then we can really look to reset the balance and move into some extremely successful business ventures.
This article was kindly provided by Dannie-Lu Carr, co-founder of The Five Gateways, a leadership programme to empower dynamic women. See www.thefivegateways.co.uk for more details.