News Flash: Just because we are women doesn’t mean we share the same brain or hold one common political belief system – but some ill-informed people might think we do.
When Marine Le Pen of France lost the French presidential election and Hillary Clinton failed to become the President of the United States you could hear and read opinions that centered around women who didn’t support these candidates. What followed were statements like, Women Against Women, Women Hate Other Women, Women Beware Women.
I get so v-e-r-y tired of this BS.
Informed people, regardless of their gender, vote based primarily on their personal values. They protest or support causes that directly impact their life, work, community or country. It is entirely possible to take a vagina or penis out of the equation and simply set out to elect a leader.
Now, follow me on this one because it might be hard for some of you who believe that a woman is against women if she doesn’t vote for one….GROW UP!!!
In an attempt to move us further away from divisive and simplistic comments about women I would like to offer this:
So, is it a little clearer?
If I vote for a man, that doesn’t mean I gave up my membership to womanhood. If I protest against a leader – who happens to be a woman – that doesn’t mean I hate her or that I’m against women, I simply don’t agree with the parties’ policies.
For many of us who have been in our fields for a long time it is possible to become complacent and feel as if we’ve seen or know it all. It is for these very reasons that I feel compelled to put myself in situations where I can challenge or affirm my understanding of our world, the role of work or establishing why we are the way we are.
In the last year I have participated in three very powerful events that impacted my work and to be quite honest also influenced my perception of people, resources and tools that are often associated with the helping professions – including my own.
At times I feel like a child who is learning something new and I am so proud to have grasped the concept. Other times what I’m participating in causes me to reevaluate so much of what I thought I knew.
In my experience the times when I felt the power of learning so profoundly was when I registered for things that appeared to be beyond my expertise. Sticking within my own wheelhouse is comforting as I can expand on what I know already and feel affirmed by my right answers. But, when I put myself outside of my familiar zone that’s a whole other sensory experience.
In the last year I have had three mind opening events come my way that I am grateful for and I want to share this with you.
The first was an online symposium on Translating Aboriginal Traditions to Employment. Without going into the specifics I just want to share how hearing the stories of those that participated impacted me not only on a professional level by also on a spiritual level.
I had taken cultural training courses and spent many years working with people from all over this country and world. Having sensitively to cultures comes with the territory – or so we think. But really I believe I have been naive to so many aspects of tradition and its role in employment. The sharing of stories surrounding residential schools, culture, community, ceremony, family and trauma were gifted to all of us and so our learning went far beyond employment.
Next I attended a conference on Ending Violence. Again the presenters expanded my understanding of the impact of violence while providing useful tools and resources that far exceeded my expectations.
For the last two days I attended a workshop facilitated by Dr. Lori Haskell – Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma. I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly valuable this was! What I learned will positively impact my work with clients who have experienced trauma but it also hit close to home. I took away information that changes how I view myself and others in my personal life. The learning went deep, not just through the speaker, but also I had the privilege of learning from those that were at my table.
Does it feel like you are living in tough times right now? Do you personally have doubt about your ability to cope with challenges in your life? Did you know that your doubt can help open the door to more critical thinking?
Tough times bring multiple things into focus and for many their first instinct is to hope it all goes away. Doubt emerges on a cognitive level but on an emotional level our lack of belief doesn’t need to be debilitating.
Doubt can be the next motivator and an opportunity to strategize. How? Well, I will give an example:
I took a course once that was really tough. I questioned why I was even doing the course and doubted my ability to complete it. Armed with multiple reasons why I was not a good student, and a history of procrastination to wear as a badge, I believed it was going to be impossible to get assignments done.
Slowly but surely I pulled in support from various people who would help me stay on track. I looked for examples in my own life when I overcame an obstacle or challenged myself to do something I had never done before. My strategy was to plug away on the easier content and assignments first and build up my confidence to tackle the next level. Before I knew it I was done.
Doubt helped me to look critically at myself and encouraged me to find internal and external resources. The opportunity to know more and to believe that my narrative could change from being an average struggling student to a graduate of a program, opened up my awareness of what is possible.
Doubt has a purpose and we should acknowledge its role in our personal development.
After many generations of women in the workforce we are still trying to figure out their role, needs, qualities and how we can leverage their talents to create more prosperous nations.
The optics were good when Prime Minister Trudeau, President Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump gathered with female executives to talk about empowering women, creating jobs and advancing women’s opportunities. Powerful people meeting to understand the barriers and successes of women in business.
Trump and Trudeau announced their creation of Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders – a long name with probably an even longer timeline before we see benefits. Should we be excited? Maybe, but I will reserve my enthusiasm.
I’m hoping that sooner rather than later that when we hear about a meeting to advance women we might see a better representation of women at the table. Yes, speaking to women who have climbed the entrepreneurial and business ladder is both impressive and necessary but is it enough to warrant a big “Hurray”, for us?
After over twenty years supporting women’s career aspirations I’ve learned there are commonalities in how women approach their careers but I also know that it’s a mistake to assume women’s needs are the same. If advancement is the goal then one must first figure out which road they are travelling on and meet them where they stand. It is also helpful to be more inclusive because tomorrows entrepreneur or leader may come from unlikely beginnings.
Let me give you a sampling of the women I serve who could add value to this council:
Young single women just starting their careers full of hope, naivety, high expectations, nervousness and often untested confidence. Up to this point, they have usually not experienced overt sexism on the job and haven’t had to market themselves for promotions. Most of these young women have disclosed a desire to make a difference but work isn’t everything. Full of ideas and energy it should be easy to mentor young women.
Mature business women with multiple experiences that have shaped them personally and professionally often say, “I want to remain relevant.” They may be changing their career direction or just starting to ask, “What’s next?” There is no shortage of mature women being over-looked by employers which leaves many of these women feeling like they have gone as far as they could or are allowed to go. Not leveraging their talents is a big mistake.
Immigrant women try to learn English while navigating cultural, educational and career changes. Many have experienced isolation in this new country but demonstrate strength and gratitude. I have met professional immigrant women have been surprised and disappointed when they found resistance in hiring not because of ESL but because of racism or protectionist attitudes. We need to do a better job of advancing their education and creating connections that bring these women quicker to the table. (Creating meals in the back of restaurant is no place for a former Psychologist)
Aboriginal women, many but not all, face significant barriers to employment. Struggling with literacy, poverty and lack of transportation they know what impedes opportunities for success. Honoring aboriginal culture and meeting together we learn a lot about the how, why and where they wish to work. More emphasis needs to be placed on aboriginal representation in business. We need to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit so job creation happens in communities that need it most.
Moms returning to paid employment often tell a similar story. It’s common to hear how both male and female staff responded to their request for maternity leave negatively – as if it is placing a burden on the company or on individual staff members. Women making the choice to start a family also talk about the competition to keep their job and are concerned about what it will be like when they return. Moms returning to paid work tend to feel more pressure to keep up and not be perceived as unable to balance both family and career. Their jobs are placed in jeopardy because they still remain the first point of contact for family emergencies. (I haven’t even covered trusted/affordable childcare needs)
Women survivors of violence who have dreams of a better and safer life. These women – as diverse as they are – eventually reach a point where they can access services designed to empower and create work opportunities. If Trudeau and company were truly interested in supporting these women there would be centralized health organizations addressing their needs from start to finish instead of the fragmented systems/services we have now. Many women leaders and entrepreneurs have been born from a necessity to survive and thrive.
As a fan of the band Heart I was surprised to learn that Dan Rather interviewed Ann and Nancy Wilson. I don’t associate his journalistic ventures with the music world but apparently The Big Interview has covered a lot of great musicians.
Mr. Rather takes us down a historical career path before opening up to present day events where we learn so much more about these powerful women. Along with various band members the Wilson sisters continue to produce incredible songs that stand the test of time.
As a career counsellor I discovered through this interview a connection between their professional/personal experience and the advice I often give clients:
Know who you are, try to live up to your potential, be professional and stay true to your values.
Ann and Nancy strive to maintain authenticity but their account of what it felt like to “sell out” based on outside pressure and poor decision making is a good lesson. Many of us know what it is like to be asked to do something that doesn’t feel right but through a threat of job loss or sense of obligation we bow down.
Their parents were the foundation from which they developed strong values and a true love of music. Their sisterly bond has helped them avoid the loneliness that can arise when entertainers go from so much love on stage to the quiet time that follows. There is no doubt that the reason they feel so comfortable to tour heavily year after year is in large part due to growing up in a military family that moved quite a lot. The people in our life and the places we may go can shape our careers immensely.
I appreciated Ann’s willingness to respond to a question about her weight fluctuations even though it doesn’t define her. With Ann’s cool and honest communication style she shared her reality and her road to acceptance. It was also good to gain a glimpse into Nancy and Ann’s flirtations with drugs and alcohol. They made clear the negative impact substance abuse can have on life and work. Setting personal issues and gender aside, these rock icons bring their wicked instrumental, vocal and performance skills to venues across North America and beyond with a goal to be the best…. and they are!
On another note: Something near and dear to my heart, this band is involved in the WE ARE NOT AFRAID CAMPAIGN which brings awareness to issues of violence. Please check out this link for more information We Are Not Afraid
A sneak peak at video.
Are you always thinking about work? Never too far away from your phone or computer? Readily available to solve, coordinate or manage something? Do you believe that without your skills the organization will crumble or someone better will come along and replace you?
Then you are not alone.
Giving yourself permission to switch off at the end of a long work day can be tricky. Many people struggle to separate themselves from their job long enough to enjoy time for self and family. Common statements are, “Well if I don’t do it then it probably won’t get done” or “They expect me to handle these things, it’s the nature of the job” or ” I don’t mind. It will just take a few minutes and then I can take a break.”
We are all susceptible to becoming creatures of habit plagued by delusions of grandeur.
Our jobs can become our identity and our home is a cubical with air conditioning. Maybe we are lucky enough to have an office suite on the 20th floor of a building but likely haven’t taken in the scenery since the first day the work station was offered to us. Even as we ride transit or drive along in our cars we are still reachable to discuss business. We simply can’t (or won’t) turn off.
If you live and breathe work I suspect the only time you give yourself permission to step away from your job is when you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for an off-the-grid vacation or your doctor diagnoses you with a significant health problem. The vacation sounds nice but your doctors message doesn’t.
If you think it is time to switch off your job maybe the following suggestion will help.
I could tell in her eyes and by the way she described herself in past tense that this career woman had lost her way. This bright woman of 40+ had a rich background of experience and she eagerly shared stories about how she moved her way up to greater responsibility – until she was laid off. For purposes of this blog I will name her Joan.
Joan had spent the better part of the last two years trying to find a job. She shows the signs of exhaustion, fear and she wondered aloud, “Am I irrelevant?”
Before being unemployed people knew who she was. Joan was sought after by colleagues, clients and stakeholders for her expertise but now she feels like she has been benched. She is sitting at the sideline waiting for another chance to show her worth.
Joan tries to apply for similar positions and has even begun to investigate a complete career change. After every resume goes out or interview happens she questions, Am I over-qualified? Under-qualified? or Are they just not seeing my value?
She had her share of no responses to applications and disappointing results from interviews she thought she aced. She knew that some positions were not the right fit and so she was screened out. When she realized a position would have her working under a boss who was twenty-something she screened herself out.
Joan considered an entirely new job, based on the advice of friends, but the prospect of investing in further education and other changes in lifestyle just wasn’t very appealing.
Tears welled up from time to time and smiles would surface when she recalled better professional days. Moments of Ah Ha! would brighten the dark tunnel she was passing through but this can’t be all there is. Joan is too skilled to be irrelevant!
I listened intently because I knew that the story, the vulnerability, the fear of the unknown, the questions surrounding her own qualities was not confined to her own sacred space but now for others to see and hear. This once confident business woman was full of self-doubt and it showed not only in the person, but on paper as well.
Joan’s resume was trying too hard to tell the whole story. The language so specific to her industry and so smothered in details it was clear she wanted to be noticed. It dropped names as if everyone should know the players and provided short testimonials like a hybrid of a resume and reference letter. It was inundated with facts and figures as sentences bled more and more over the pages – four pages in fact.
It was clear we needed to work on so many levels and so began a trek through the tunnel together to shed some light on the reality of her situation.
Joan no longer had her pulse on what’s happening in the business community. Her connections were mainly with a couple of friends and close family. She spent many weeks never seeing a single soul, just looking for work by pressing buttons on a keypad, dressed in her “comfy clothes.”
She was living in the past. Sounding more like she was reciting her own eulogy rather than speaking about a living being. Each past tense reference was noted and I asked her to re-frame many of her sentences. Joan needed to find out that the skills and unique qualities she possesses are relevant and transferable to multiple work environments. I told her, “We just need to identify which ones you want to travel with.”
Joan valued time spent giving back to her community and had applied for a couple of jobs at not-for-profit organizations. Given her four page resume was quite over-powering for any reader, and heavy on corporate speak, we began to deconstruct her resume. Joan was not speaking their language and made the classic mistake of thinking her expertise would speak for itself. I suspect most readers needed an interpreter or simply gave up.
We looked at the vast differences between how applicants approach job search and how employers find applicants. Her eyes widened as she realized applicants and employers were traveling in opposite directions. We talked about the information highway and resources that can help get her back on the right road instead of feeling like she is driving around the same traffic circle.
The fact is most people don’t know Joan exists, despite the multiple times she has hit the send button on her computer. She “used to be” a go-getter. Joan chaired meetings, schmoozed with the business crowd, sourced people and introduced people so it falls within her competency to connect. She’d simply lost her confidence.
Joan and I moved through a process that was long overdue. I saw a change in her clothes and make-up, the way she sat and how she spoke. She was slowly holding her own light and not hiding in the dark. She began to trust her own ideas and not immediately look for validation with, “Is that OK?” or “What do you think?” Joan was beginning to see the difference between what she can market today and what can be left as a good work memory.
I’m not going to give you a fairy-tale ending, as Joan is a woman on a journey. But I will share this…
She began to make connections in the business community, she was deeply thankful for the time we had together and most importantly she now knows JOAN IS RELEVANT.
(Thank you to all the women I have worked with, like Joan. You continue to inspire me)