Blame It On the Apple: Why Women are to Blame for the Lack of Female Leaders

BlameitontheappleIt’s all Eve’s fault. One bite of an apple and humanity is sent spiraling into a sexist universe where boys continue to be boys and women, well, are expected to be superheroes. And why shouldn’t we blame Eve; after all, she is a woman.

Centuries later, the proverbial “curse” continues: a woman gets beat, it’s her fault for staying; a woman is sexually assaulted, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time; and when a man steps out into the arms of another woman, the woman blames herself. This “shame on her” game doesn’t limit itself to personal affairs; it has seeped into corporate America and the political arena as more women raise their heads above the glass ceiling.

Women today have made progress –more education, more businesses, more buying power –but perhaps Chelsea Clinton was stating the not so obvious when she said: “we can’t mistake progress for success” in a recent interview with Wonkblog. According to a study by the Pew Research, four-in-ten Americans admitted there was a double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of either politics or business, where they have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves. In other words, the perpetual “war on women” is less about expanding political and leadership opportunities, and more so a matter of shifting gender perceptions.

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with Cinderella. Who could resist a fairy godmother who would grant your every wish, a handsome rich prince, and custom-made glass slippers? Luckily, adulthood intervened and I realized I didn’t need a fairy godmother; I could make my own dreams come true. Rich men are nice, but there’s nothing like being a self-made woman. I’m still obsessed with shoes, however, being a woman on the other side of 30 I would opt for a comfortable pair of flats over heels. In short, fairy tales are nice, but at some point you have to pony up the illusion. Unfortunately, society is still living out these fictional tales, in which women are not allowed to deviate from their script.

As the old playground song goes first love, then marriage, and possibly a baby or two. Yet, no one mentioned that motherhood would be filled with a mosh pit of criticism, guilt, and knocks to your self-esteem. So we’re forced to choose – love or career, motherhood or business leader. One out of five Americans reported that a woman with leadership aspirations should toss their desire to have kids out the door.

“I was a bad mom” read the New York Post headline, referencing statements made by New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray in a New York Magazine interview. In the NY Mag piece, McCray recounted her struggles with becoming a first-time mother at age 40.

McCray told NY Mag’s Lisa Miller: “I had a life. Especially with Chiara — will we feel guilt forever more. Of course, yes. But the truth is I could not spend every day with her.”

Time and again, women who dare to lead are subjected to public humiliation. Let us not forget Gabriel Douglas, who despite winning two gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, was tormented for the appearance of her hair. For many, the scrutiny endured once you arrive in a position of power doesn’t suffice the return, causing potential woman leaders to back away on their own accord.

From the days of our foremother Eve, women have been held to harsher standards. Since history is hell bent on repeating itself, before we lean in let’s consider that in order to have more woman at the leadership table, we need to stop judging each other and most importantly, ourselves.

Photo by Andrew Hewitson

Women Turn to Social Media to Bridge Leadership Gap

 

Woman WarriorThe worst kind of battle is the one you don’t see coming. Recent political ambitions have spawned a
movement of ferocious attacks on women’s rights, including everything from abortion and health care to pay equity and domestic violence. The latest item on the social agenda to come under scrutiny is women’s leadership ambitions.

Recent studies have attributed the lack of female power to a decline in ambition for leadership, particularly among young women. A study by Zeno Group revealed that only 15 percent out of a survey of 1,000 women between ages 21 and 33 endeavored to acquire a leadership role at a large or prominent organization. Nearly half of survey participants felt that the personal sacrifices weren’t worth the pursuit much less the attainment of the proverbial dangling carrot. As a result, women in positions of leadership have stalled.

In the political realm, only 18 percent of women hold seats in the United States Congress, 20 percent in the Senate and 17.9 percent hold a place at the table in the House of Representatives. Corporate America tells an even grimmer tale with women holding a little over fifteen percent of positions as directors in Fortune 500 companies, 10 percent as chief financial officers, and 4 percent as chief executives at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies.

To the casual observer, it may appear that instead of digging a more level playing field, many of us have stopped playing or opted out altogether. However, I encourage women to expand their definition of leadership beyond the boardroom and political offices, and unlike our sisters from previous generations, millennials and baby boomers alike, are finding innovative ways to lead that coincide with their lifestyles.

Without question, women dominate social media and even use it as a catalyst to create dialogue around issues affecting themselves and other women. Nearly nineteen million women document their experiences, share insights, and provide recommendations online according to Pew Research Center statistics, becoming thought leaders in their own right. While men are close behind authoring 16 million blogs, none are as profitable as their female counterparts in harnessing financial support from consumer brands.

Before we’re so quick to count young women out as future leaders, let’s consider how they have harnessed social media to create economical opportunities and social change. In addition, I invite women to venture one step further and examine how we can expand upon this virtual platform to build a collective movement of social advancement that will break down barriers to leadership and inspire others to strive for something more than the corner office.

Photo by pan.li75

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How to Give Yourself Permission to Step into Greatness

Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

“At the center of your being you have the answer, you know who you are and you know what you want.” Lao Tzu

Mother may I. Simon says.  Childhood presents a lot of little games designed to teach us right from wrong, what lines not to cross, and when to proceed to the next step.  Unfortunately, as we venture into adulthood, it’s no different.  Despite achieving financial independence, holding down a full- time job while raising a family, and even running a business of our own, many of us are still waiting for permission.  Permission to be who we really are when no one is watching; permission to take on a new position at work or quit a job to pursue our heart’s desire; permission to say no to things that no longer serve us.

Why we seek the approval of others
We seek in others what we have abandoned in ourselves.  Reflect for a moment.  Somewhere in between childhood and womanhood someone may have said you’re not good enough or discouraged you from doing something you really wanted to do – and you believed them.  As a result, a series of self-fulfilling prophecies began to unfold.  A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio show interview featuring author Lisa Nichols and she said something that struck me.  She coined herself as a “permission agent.” She then went on to recount an experience in school, where a teacher told her she lacked writing skills and would never make it as a writer.  Twenty plus years later, she’s now a New York Times best-selling author.

A Personal Story
In 2007, I began moonlighting as an entrepreneur while working during the day as a legal writer.  Then it happened: My uncle died a week before his 38th birthday.  While tragic, this event gave me the permission I needed to start living a life on my own terms.  Two weeks later I handed in my resignation letter and never looked back.

Imagine if your life was cut short.  What will you have left behind? Unrealized dreams? Regret? Here are three ways to grant yourself permission to step into greatness.

1.  Take responsibility.  Sure, blaming others, the economy, your upbringing or lack of education can feel like a warm snuggly blanket, shielding you from the possibility of failure but aside from countless excuses, you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts.  Giving yourself permission requires taking complete responsibility for your career or business. Although, you may not be able to control all the events in your life, you have full command over your actions and how you react in each situation.

 What does taking responsibility entail?

It means giving up all the complaints and excuses for why you’re not achieving your desires.  It means digging your heels in, putting your head down and working on your goal until you’ve reached your destination, regardless of what’s going on around you.

2.  Determine what you want. How clear is the vision of what you want? Can you see it, taste it, smell it, hear it? If not, it’s time to hone in on your dream.  Make a wish list.  Write a detailed description of how you’ll feel once you’ve attained your desire on an index card.  Ask yourself: How will my life improve?  Then memorize these details and recite them to yourself every morning and at night before you go to bed.

3.  Pull the trigger. Day after day,week after week, you talk about taking your business or career to the next level, but still nothing.  You contemplate for endless hours on the appropriate action to take or allow yourself to get bogged down with the details.  Meanwhile, time has picked up its pace, along with a growing number of obligations.  There’s never going to be a perfect time or balance when it comes to going after something you want.

Giving yourself permission can be inconvenient, taxing on your mental and physical energy, and possibly the most difficult thing you’ll do.  On the other hand, it’s the only way to live your truth. Start small and experiment with new things: try a new cuisine, test out a new lipstick or better yet, get a free makeover at the cosmetics counter, or sign up for a class. The possibilities are endless.  The point is that the more you shift the compartments of your life around, the more room you’ll have for what’s important to you.

So what will you give yourself permission to do this week? I invite you to commit to doing something every day for the next 30 days.   Share in comments.