“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” – Desmond Tutu
I was born the eldest grandchild on both sides and I was dearly loved. But, since I was a baby girl, my grandfather didn’t open the Dom Perignon. They waited until my brother was born to celebrate his succession of the family name. As a young girl, that didn’t make sense to me. Years later, I see the culture that breeds acceptance of these tiny acts of inequity. It is possible that my desperate need to feel “as good as” or be treated “equal to” manifested over-achievement in almost every area of my life. Perhaps that’s positive.
But I wonder what little girls would truly accomplish if we valued them for their feminine attributes and didn’t subtly (or not so subtly), communicate that they need to be like boys to play in this world.
I suggest we play like girls and see what happens.
As a cohort, women earn 60% of all undergraduate & graduate College degrees and 46% of Business Administration Masters degrees (MBAs). Exhibiting traditionally feminine qualities of patience, humility and risk-aversion, women have consistently proven to be better investors and hedge fund managers on Wall Street. Companies employing a large number of women boast higher profitability on all measures and women take more seats in law schools and medical schools around the globe than their male counterparts. In leadership positions, women consistently fare better in all scores of emotional intelligence, which is now considered more important than cognitive ability at predicting outstanding performance.
This separation starts as early as grade school when girls outperform boys due to their longer attention spans, more advanced verbal and fine-motor skills and greater social adeptness.
But the gap closes quickly as little boys seem to come out of the womb taking risks, failing fast and learning to persevere despite the razzing of male counterparts – all deemed vital to building confidence and resilience.
Many women lack the confidence to step forward and be seen, making it difficult for them to get promoted in the current structure. Women hold back until they meet 100% of the qualifications for a position whereas men will step up with only 60% of the requirements. Men consistently rate their own performance as 30% better than it really is, whereas women underestimate themselves on all measures.
Perfectionism, a largely female issue, is a huge waste of time and resources. Trying to be perfect and fear of failure are holding women back from promotions at work, success on the sports field and experiences that would, in turn, increase their confidence. While confidence is essential, if a woman is too assertive she is seen as offensive, lacking proficiency and poorly suited to leadership. It’s a fine line.
It’s time for a change!
If we want a world that elevates people to leadership based on their competence and communication skills, we need to deconstruct the barriers, muster the courage and create that world.
Leadership is self-appointed.
If we want a world that values the feminine as much as the masculine and treats everyone with the same respect and dignity, we must act and now. There is a call to rise, as a community of people (men and women), who believe that the world would be a better place if greater value were placed on loyalty, communication, compassion, empathy and patience.
We need a new structure.
We need a new culture.
The traits that nurture relationships, open dialogue, respect boundaries and seek peaceful resolution to conflict are mainly feminine attributes.
Find your gifts, talents and expertise and, unapologetically, express them.
Be loud, be quiet, be you.
The world needs YOU.
Don’t wait for perfection, view failure as a way to improve and elect yourself to leadership. Step into your greatness and play like a girl!
As for me, I’m going to buy my own bottle of Dom Perignon and I’m going to enjoy every last drop in celebration of my feminine gifts. I’m going to nurture the feminine in my children so that they are equipped to function in a world of global connectivity and international partnership. I’m going to stop viewing my softness as weakness and, instead, embrace my power.
I’m going to invite other, inspiring women to see their brilliance, believe in their capacity and act as if the world urgently needs a new way.
Because it does.
And this is OURS to do!
The Confidence Gap, The Atlantic, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, May 2014.
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sheryl Sandberg. 2013