Okay, you beautiful women leaders, this one’s for you.
Your gentlemen friends are, of course, welcome to read but, be forewarned, they may have a few questions for you afterwards. (Two wink emojis, followed by one shocked emoji, and a giggle.)
Let me just start with the elephant …
By now, we lady leaders are not only exhausted from a constant barrage of competing work priorities and trying to figure out how a hybrid model could possibly work for our organizations … we’re also tired of trying to juggle all that and our full family lives (a little help here please!).
Right? I certainly am! Can we just get on with things already?! And the answer is yes, yes we can. It’s mission critical that we do. Here’s why.
Women in the workforce are at their lowest numbers since Madonna filed assault charges against Sean Penn and Jessica Rabbit hit number one in the box office.
There we were, charging ahead with women’s rights, leaning in hard, elbowing our way onto earnings calls. Pre-pandemic, we had achieved the position our foremothers dreamed of for us. Women were 50 percent of the labor force. We were fueling the economy and taking names.
And then … pandemonium.
In one year, nearly 3 million American women emptied their lockers and walked – or were escorted – out the door. We, and I do mean we, were fired, laid off, furloughed, and left the office to care for home-schooled children.
Some of us just got sick of the game and decided to retire early. I’m sure we’ve all had moments over the last 15 months when we thought, “Too hard. Not worth it. I’m out.” I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had those days. Wine helps.
But seriously, we’re smart. When work goes haywire, we start to think, “Is having this career really worth my time?” Or, as Betty Friedan put it so succinctly, “Is this all?” We start to wonder if all the blood, sweat, and tears we’re putting into our careers, people, organizations, customers, industries … is actually going to pay off at some point.
I say yes. Absolutely yes. Because 2020 proved that the women’s movement, the push for true gender parity isn’t over. Not even close. And finishing it is not going to be easy. Things that come easily are rarely worth it anyway. But marshalling a renewed push will be worth it.
Just like we moved in our careers from innocent newbies to seasoned professionals to the courageous executives we are today, leadership for women is entering a new phase. That’s why everything feels topsy-turvy.
We’re finished with the fighting to get into the workforce phase. Now that Betty, Gloria, Jane, Michelle, Kamala, Sheryl, et al have helped wriggle the toes of our oh-so chic Christian Laboutins in the door, now that we’re included in those earnings calls, we need to show them what we’ve got.
“It doesn’t really matter how we get the jobs. What matters is what we do once we have them.”
— Natalie Figueroa (aka Fig), Orange Is The New Black
That’s right, ladies. We’re the leaders our companies have been waiting for. It’s our job to regain the numbers of women leaders in the workforce that 2020 took from us. It’s our job to invite the next generation of young women into management and leadership roles.
And – here’s the sticky part – it’s our job to help our male counterparts feel comfortable with our presence. We need them to not just want us in the room but to demand we are there. No small task! In some ways, our part of the women’s movement is even harder than the battleground fight our activist predecessors fought.
“You have to lead by example. You can’t preach. You can’t make people want to work hard. You have to work hard yourself, and harder most of the time. And unfortunately, as a woman you probably have to think longer and harder about the way that you say things.”
— Alicia Beth Moore (aka Pink), via WSJ
It’s time to muster our courage because 2022 is a pivotal moment in the gender parity movement. And instead of boxing gloves, angry words, and cries of unfairness, we need to call upon our most feminine super powers – our courageous leadership skills – to make the final run to 50/50 boards, 50/50 C-Suites, 50/50 Supreme Courts.
This is our generation’s moment. If you retire now, you’re going to miss something truly amazing.
Deep breaths. Here’s your Courage Challenge for the week: Make a bold move to help a fellow woman access childcare so she can work, secure a job, earn a promotion, or get the training she needs to take the next step in her career. Risk a little of yourself to move her up the career ladder. As always, let’s discuss in the comments below!
At the Courageous Leadership Institute, we leverage our work with over 300,000 leaders and employees from 400+ companies to offer leadership programs that impact results with customers and employees immediately.
Cindy Solomon is CEO of the Courageous Leadership Institute, a thriving global leadership training and research organization with access to up-to-the-minute insights on how today’s most innovative corporations are defining the future of business. She is also the author of two books, The Rules of Woo and The Courage Challenge Workbook.