Recently I was speaking to Monica, a 37-year-old woman who was coming back to the job sector 7 years after she quit her job. She had left her high paying advertising job in order to become a full-time mother. Since she was now a divorcee and a single mother of a teenager who was in a faraway boarding school, she had to pull the weight in order to sustain her kid’s provisions.
Do not think of alimony because this was no marriage to a mega-rich man who parted with half of his property at the end of their love story. In fact, this was a type of marriage that once started with the man being a successful entrepreneur and the sole provider of the family but ended with him working as a janitor.
On the other hand, the wife who quit her job shortly after she got married and entered matrimony as a successful and established marketer/advertiser was left with a bag of clothes, no home but one childhood friend who was oblivious of her predicament. Do not blame the friend whatsoever. Monica had just chosen to keep her problems a secret because who wouldn’t? Life to Monica was at a standstill and she considered her existence a failure.
The predicament rose when it came to finding a job. Out of 25 applications, which she had done in a month, she had only managed to secure 10 interviews. Since time had changed and her marketing skills were rusty, Monica couldn’t make to the final phase of the interviews. After going for 9 interviews and failing a frustrated Monica gave in to the general criticism she got.
You are a little old and inexperienced. Yes, you have a diploma and the experience, but do you realise that you will be competing with young graduates with apt skills? Monica was in despair.
The networks she had cultivated during her prosperous days were too high on the corporate ladder that she felt intimidated to reach out. Monica was caught between a rock and a hard place. If only her last interviewer didn’t put her down as she did, Monica would have not torn up her Diploma certificate, which she did immediately she reached home. All efforts seemed futile.
Finally, she got a call. It was from a publishing company where she had applied for an assistant job. It was below her past pay grade but it would suffice since she had no other option. It was exhausting and required her to do a significant amount of manual chores but she was happy she made it into the corporate world.
However, what if Monica found a fellow woman who could help her instead of criticising her harshly to a point of discounting her accomplishments? What if she wasn’t being viewed as an outdated threat, but a potential power source in her field?
Forbes reports that sometimes women become so caught up in fighting the glass ceiling that we do not realise the cost we pay. In the fight to get ahead, we end up enforcing the same stereotypes and preconceived notions that we would like to eradicate.
- Women, let’s champion each other.
Even if you encountered barriers in your road to become successful, rather than repeating the same cycle, uplift another woman. Show her it is possible. Lead her to the right people who will accord her the help she needs. Extend opportunities to other women and make them visible if you have the power. Let other women know that there’s room for all of us at the proverbial table.
- Pave the way for other women to follow.
Gabrielle Union in her book We Are Going To Need More Wine talked about the importance of guiding other young women and empowering them. Be it in the film industry, or any other field. This is the principle that we should employ so that younger generations can follow in our footsteps. In this book, Gabrielle mentions that in Hollywood, actresses are afraid to champion fellow actresses because they are afraid of losing the limelight or grooming a younger actress who can surpass them.
Gabrielle claims she suffered from the same phobia too because before she got her break she too had to struggle to get where she is. Hence the mindset that ‘others have to struggle because nothing was handed out to her,’ However, through her experiences she learnt that there’s an importance of mentoring potential talent. For the young generation stands as the future who will contribute to the needed change.
- Get your voice heard
Challenge stereotypes and social norms that cement these stereotypes. For instance, mansplaining is a culture present in both the corporate and social environments that some people do not even realise when they’re doing it. Here is Mansplaining, explained in one simple chart by the BBC. As a woman in leadership, take a stand and speak up against bullying and mansplaining of fellow women. Make a change whenever you can and get your voice heard at work. Check out how to cope with bullying at the workplace.
- Become an inspiration
Inspiration breeds opportunities that other people wouldn’t have known existed. Motivate other women by sharing your experiences. Share your mistakes, obstacles, how you manoeuvred in your journey to success and the lessons you learnt. Show other women that there are ways to push boundaries and conquer fears. Provide honest and critical feedback. Aspire to become an inspiration to other women and this will garner you the numbers you need to fight for a course. Women let’s champion each other. Check out Rita Okuthe’s Journey To The Top.
- Celebrate other women
Do not be a conduit for harsh criticism and belittlement. Rather, develop a habit of celebrating other women’s strength. Support the weak and empower them to come out of their shell. Influence women to become leaders of their own and entrust projects to them when you believe in their talent. Give a woman a chance to prove herself and don’t forget to give her compliments she deserves.
- Do not be a female boss, become a boss lady
It is sad that the typical female boss plagues the work environment with toxicity rather than amicable and respectful relationships. On the other hand, a boss lady is someone who is strong, confident, a go-getter and a force to reckon with. She recognises her purpose and works towards it through servant leadership. Jesus knew better when he told Peter than in order to become the first he must be willing to become the last.
- Speak openly about salaries
Since time immemorial gender pay gap disparity has remained a constant issue cutting across different continents and different industries. This emanates from the mystery incubated around salaries. A report made in 2017 from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research shows that 17% of private companies were pay transparent while 25% forbid against this practice. From my experience, this ban under the guise of inappropriateness only signifies that people are not offered fair pay structures. Therefore, it is important, to speak openly around salaries and promotions in order to know how to navigate around salary negotiations and cut down unfair practices.
- Embrace other women’s individuality
We are all different and just like a jigsaw puzzle, the difference in the pieces is what makes a complete picture. Do not place your expectations on other women. Do not expect all women to embrace your ideals. Be a champion for change. Fight against stereotypes but do not demean the women who chose to ascribe to the stereotypical ideals.
There are several companies in Kenya championing women to become rise above the norm. Let Rita Okuthe enlighten you on how Safaricom is investing in Women’s leadership.
(Adapted from Forbes)
Featured image via very well mind