The lockdown is soon going to be over, and we are welcoming back our wanderlust and are embracing the world once more. Coming back into the new world and our workplaces might not be the same as we left them in 2020, and it is vital to foster and encourage kindness and meaningful connection at work where we can create a safe space for everyone, especially women.
There is no denying that women are no longer taking a backseat and are demanding to be treated and respected equally to their peer males at the workplace. In recent years and with a rise of a #metoo movement, more and more information and data come up where women are fighting back and standing up for their rights. It would be wonderful to think that the concept of equality is no longer an issue; however, that is not the case.
Courtney Frazer has pointed out that benevolent sexism, which is sometimes described as “subtle” or “friendly” sexism, is often ignored. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there and is followed by other issues such as work-life balance, equal pay, career opportunities, just to name a few.
We are never more than one conversation away from creating an environment where one can feel safe, empowered and trusted to be a vital part of the team whose voice is heard and respected. I assume in order to achieve this happy place, we have to be actively engaged, not in talking about equal rights but actively living them.
Sometimes a small gesture like a positive comment or standing up for your coworking colleague can play a vital role in a person’s life and give them the boost and support they need. Adapting this concept and choosing to do what is right might not always be easy—but small changes made daily can significantly impact the world, which does not have to be a radical all of a sudden transformation.
Sarah Stone, the co-founder of the Female Success Network, suggests that the best way to feel empowered is to empower others, and she has successfully lived by her truths. Inspired by her philosophy, I asked some of my female friends what empowers them and what tips they would give to the other females. After few zoom chats, I came up with some conclusions that I would like to share with you.
One of the most common thing that came up was speaking openly about concerns and suspicious behaviour of other coworkers, such as “friendly” sexism. There is still a stigma around this subject. If a woman expresses her dislikes to the attention she’s receiving or mentions inappropriate behaviour, it may lead her to being ignored, neglected, forced to leave, or even blacklisted.
Unfortunately, the majority of “bosses” or people in charge are men; thus, females feel uncomfortable expressing their concerns to male coworkers in fear of not being understood and called being too sensitive or too serious for “not getting the jokes”. For this reason, having those sometimes uncomfortable conversations with men and women around you can pave the path for others to have the courage to do the same. Doing what’s right is not always easy, but equipping yourself with tools and educating on this matter can go a long way, preventing crime against women.
Secondly, is the money matter. I do not know about you, but where I come from, I was advised from a very early age to steer clear of three topics in conversations: religion, politics and money. However, now, I believe these topics are vital to discuss, especially the latter – money.
You might be one of the people who do not care about it, but yes, you still need it to live in a pretty demanding city like London. In most cases, conversation about money, especially at the workplace, stems from fear of rejection or negative evaluation as if women supposed to be happy to be employed. The only way to change such a matter is to armour yourself with confidence and negotiation skills, and if you managed to do it successfully, share it with others on how you did it so that they would feel empowered to do the same.
Thirdly, be transparent and open about your journey because you never know who you are inspiring. Sometimes we look up to successful women in hopes and admiration that one day we become like them. But the truth of the matter is they have encountered many trials, failures and setbacks just like the rest of us.
Their vulnerability gives others confidence, knowing that a small mistake does not mean they will be cancelled from existence and will forever be labelled as incompetent. One of my heroes, Oprah Winfrey, shared with Harvard students in her commencement address: “At some point, you are bound to stumble. If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher and higher, the law of averages predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
All of us are fighting our fights, yet not realising that others might feel exactly the same, as us women, became quite good at hiding our feelings and playing tough to live up to other people, especially our own expectations.
I personally find inspiration in women who faced far greater struggles in the past yet continued to deny the odds and opened up the doors for us to live the way we live today. Like Mary Wollstonecraft, who fought for gender equality, Elizabeth Smith Miller had the bravery to wear pants in the 19th century and permit others to do the same. Can you imagine your life without a pair of your favourite jeans? Me neither. Or Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for female rights to vote. Some of the counter-arguments that was published in “The Washington Post” against their request were rather shocking: “A woman’s brain involves emotion rather than intellect”; “The masculine represents judgment… while the feminine represents emotion”; and “Control of the temper makes a happier home than control of elections.” I wonder how “those men” would feel today with increasing numbers of women in power whose influence are rising at the speed of the light.
Let’s face it, today, women are unstoppable, and by being empowered, we in return can empower and influence other women. Yes, the world is not perfect, and we still have to be alert and cautious, but we have come a long way thanks to all the yesteryears women.
If we tackle any issue that surfaces as a collective effort, we will be able to build the systems that enable us to feel safe, protected and venture into the unknown without fear. But in the meantime, if you ever feel scared to embark on new journeys or speak up for yourself or others, remember the famous quote from Susan Jeffers book: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Break the glass ceilings and lift others up around you so that we can explore the possibilities and push the boundaries together.