The 3Cs of Women’s Leadership
How Might We Become More Courageous, Confident and Collaborative Leaders? Part I.
As women, “Are we our own worst enemy”? Are we the helpless victims and co- conspirators of our own demise? I silently asked myself this question, as I sat in the audience at a women-in-leadership forum in the southeast of the United States. The dominant perspective that morning, amongst the female bankers leaned towards the Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, point of view. As women we need to “lean in” be more ambitious, raise our hands and not shy away from new opportunities. In her bestselling book Lean In, women are assigned full responsibility for their career trajectory. However, what I heard that day took it even further than us taking responsibility for our careers. What I heard was that most of the challenges women face rising to leadership positions, were undeniably their fault. Among other advice the young bankers received that morning, they were told to stop “whining” and start drinking more “wine” by four out of the six panelists. They were all women who were in the C-suite of their organization. Several of them were CEOs of their local community banks.
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As I sat there, I reflected uncomfortably about what I felt was internalized sexism and misogyny that was now being passed on to these younger female bankers. I wondered about whether the patriarchy was outside of us, after all, an external dominant force that oppresses us, at every turn or a highly complex and well-oiled machine with all the parts and gridlocks to move our thought patterns in the appropriate direction – self-blame. Learning to rationalize self-loathing and minimizing one’s feelings of worthiness is not hard when you are reminded every day that you are less valued, through un-equal pay and have to prove your self before you are promoted while your male colleague is promoted on his potential.
What allegiance do we have to ourselves and to each other? What responsibility do we have to the future generation of women, our daughters? Are we willing to stand up and fight for them, the way others did for us to be where we are now or tell each other to stop “whining,” the way some men in the professional world have traditionally talked down to women? These are questions we must ask ourselves individually and collectively because the current state of the world requires that of us. We owe it to the future generation of women to ameliorate our shared burden of being the “second sex.” Can we imagine a future in our likeness? Stay tuned for part 2.