We women need to “Lean In” more
I have been a fan of Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” since it released. When I need to give a talk to college students I find myself flipping through it’s pages to just put me in the right frame of mind.Her ideas and suggestions still continue to be valid. Day 25 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.
I love mentoring young women. Encouraging them to be the best version of themselves creates a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
In the last decade I have made a conscious effort to study the behaviors that is holding them back.
If mentors and mentees make a conscious effort these limiting behaviors can be corrected early on.
Coach girls to speak more confidently
Once we recruited four engineering graduates – 2 boys and 2 girls. All of them were equally smart. But the boys definitely got more airtime than the girls during the training sessions and subsequent team meetings.
Our girls have been taught to NOT call attention to themselves. Therefore they hesitate to put their hands up and speak. Both teachers and managers need to actively encourage their students/new joinees to participate more in the discussions.
Using verbal crutches
In the interest of full disclosure I have to own up to a personal drawback here. I received this feedback from a young friend recently. She said, “Ruby…why do you start your conversations with sentences such as — I may be wrong but … OR I am not sure but I think….”
It is only when she called me out on this particular trait that I reflect on this habit of mine. In way I am taking anticipatory bail. When venturing an opinion or a point of view, I am so sacred that I will appear foolish that I am bailing out in advance.
I have a colleague who starts her conversations with “ I am sorry…” instead of “Hello”.
She does that because she thinks she is interrupting the other person who is probably doing something more important. Do not mistake this for being polite and considerate— it is an example of how we think we are not important enough.
We need to practice speaking more confidently. And if we have friends who behave like this, you and I need to give them constructive feedback.
How many of you have been told by your Mom or a senior woman in your family : “You are girl. It is not a good habit to argue so much. Just let go”
While this may or may not have merit in a family setting, what we see is that the little girls grow up to be woman who have this mindset ingrained in them.
Net result? When there is a conflict between a male colleague in a team OR a difference of opinion with a team lead, we give up faster than a male counterpart would. We don’t stand up for our beliefs. We are taught it is more important to get along with others. So even when giving critical feedback is essential we hold back.
I am not saying women should be belligerent. Not at all. But we should be trained and taught how to handle conflicts.
Most Important — Our young women need to be taught to express themselves in conflicts without crying.
Stop “self-deprecating” dialogues
I know this well. I am the queen of self-deprecating dialogues(so much that I sometimes feel I have invented it.)
Self-deprecating humor can be used effectively in writing and public speaking — it helps one connect better with the audience. But if you are not careful, it can spread to your everyday conversations and that is a problem. First you will start believing it and then others will also buy in to such talks.
There are many people in this world who will do their best to put you down — you should not join them.
When someone compliments your work, say Thank You. Don’t deflect it or try to make it look like it was no big deal.
Aspire for bigger goals
Perhaps as an offshoot of lack of confidence, you also see a significantly lower risk taking ability in girls. While in class if you will not volunteer to give an answer unless you are 100% sure, in grown up life you will not take on risky assignments or fight for promotions.
We all need to get out of our comfort zones to grow. There is just no other way about it.
Dream Big. Break it into realistic goals. Break it into measurable steps. Act on it. With discipline.
Be a Role Model
In India there are just 17 women who have risen to the post of CEOs in the 500 largest listed companies in India. In the IT sector 1/3rd of the work force is woman but no woman CEO.
When I started on my entrepreneurial journey I would have loved to have a woman mentor me — as she would have been able to give invaluable insights on various issues as only a woman can.
Being a role model is not just for entrepreneurs and CEOs — whatever level you are in, please bear in mind that you can be a role model for many others coming after you. Ensure that you set a good example. And play an active role in mentoring young women in your team or in your office.
Reach out to the young girls in your college and be a mentor to them.
“When women support each other, incredible things happen!”