As women strive (and struggle) to break the glass ceiling in many areas of work and life we need to recognise that we have issues!
Funnily enough, I have a 50-50 split between male and female clients but the vast majority of fellow web developers are men. I'm not new to working in a male dominated industry. As a chemistry graduate in the 80s I learnt about how the world differs for men and women the hard way!
My inorganic chemistry lecturer actually said to me, "You should do your placement in Quality Control as that industry has the highest proportion of jobs for women and it's what you'll end up doing." WRONG there then!
I wanted to do the really exciting placements - not the boring 'same-old-same-old' every day. I certainly didn't want to end up working in that field. YAWN!
And guess what I didn't - yay me!
But sometimes I think women (myself included) are our own worst enemy.
Here's my top 6 things we, as women, need to sort out to get out of our own way:
1 - Perfect the imperfection
Yes, you know you're guilty of this one!
How many of you are afraid of trying something because you won't get it right? NEWSFLASH - it doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be done.
As a website developer I see this all the time - women won't pull the trigger on their website until every last page is absolutely perfect. Meanwhile their competitors with the crappiest sites ever are stealing all their business because... well, they were out there!
Do you find yourself not trying new things in life because of the fear of failing? Well how will you know if you don't even try?
I'm not judging. I'm totally guilty of this one, that's why it's number 1 on my list.
I hate having my photo taken and I hate seeing (and hearing myself) on video. 100% it's an actual phobia [Selfiephobia: fear of taking a photograph of oneself]
- I don't look good.
- Bad hair day.
- My office is a mess.
So I've procrastinated on doing any video or audio that has me in it. Kinda hard when you suggest to your clients that it's a great marketing tool.
Well I have just got to get over myself! And I did. My first podcast episode was published recently and surprise I didn't burst into flames! It wasn't perfect. Far from it and I cringe when I hear it but it's out there - warts and all (okay I don't actually have warts - but you get the picture).
Now I just need to rinse and repeat and do it all over again - I'm told it gets easier - we'll see.
The point being that you shouldn't put off doing something because it isn't perfect by your standards. Lower your standards and see what happens.
2 - Don't feel you have to fix everything
Is it a female thing? I think so.
We like to fix things. We go out of our way to 'fix' other people - and maybe they don't actually need fixing as they have already embraced number 1 on the list!
There's a big difference between being supportive and trying to fix someone. Being supportive is awesome - we should all be like that. Trying to fix someone robs them of their ability to fix themselves and robs them of their own empowerment. We are emposing our own ideas of who someone should be and how they should behave, onto another person.
How does this relate to a business setting (after all this is a business blog)? As businesses, our purpose is to provide a solution to our clients. Well, just maybe, what we perceive as problems, aren't really problems.
Offering some helpful advice or a solution to someone that doesn't think they have a probelm is probably not going to endear you to them. Let them tell you if they think they need help and then you have a green light to go full throttle fixer on them.
Become a listener and I don't mean not contribute to the conversation. Simply allow yourself to hear what other people are saying to you. Don't judge them. It's not always that easy when we have differing beliefs but if you listen without judgement to what someone, whether a friend or a client, has to say, you will pick up on what they perceive as issues and what it is they really need help with.
3- Say bye-bye to that comfort zone
This one is a huge one for many women, myself included. I like my bubble. Somehow as I've got older it's grown around me. In my youth, it was never there. I was always a risk-taker (not bungee jumping of a bridge type risks) but still I was never afraid to try something new.
My younger self would be giving my older self a strong talking to right about now and kicking my backside right out of that safe zone. I know that the risks I took when I was younger helped shape who I am today. So that's it, is it? If I don't take anymore risks I won't grow anymore as a person. Well hell no to that. I'm not ready to stop my journey just yet - I've still got things to do!
When I packed up my family and business 14 years ago and moved across a continent to a new country everyone said how brave we were. I didn't feel brave at the time. I felt excited! For months I had a Mark Twain quote pinned to my wall. It says:
[tweet_box design="default" float="none"]Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.[/tweet_box]
That's who I want to be again. No more playing it safe.
I will record more podcasts and video and not care about how it looks or sounds to me (see number 1 above)
I've also just bought a paddleboard - that's something new to try. That's as close as I'm getting to an extreme sport - my bungee jumping days aren't happening (or are they?) Never say never!
So try moving away from your 'safe harbour', it doesn't have to be far - baby steps to start with - and see how you go.
4- Just Say No (and mean it)
We've all done it! Ended up agreeing to something because we didn't want to say no. Why do we do that?
If you agree to do something that you don't really want to do you are just watering down the experience for everyone. You resent the time doing the thing that you really didn't want to do and it becomes a downward spiral.
Imagine if we only agreed to do things that we genuinely wanted to do and then did those things with enthusiasm and passion. How much better would we feel in ourselves?
Give yourselves permission to say no and emphatically mean it - not a "no-maybe" - but a definitive "no thanks that's not for me"
No explanation is needed - stop trying to justify why you are saying no.
Start saying no to the things you don't want to do and you'll find that you are actually saying 'yes' to yourself.
5 -Stop being a people pleaser
Life is not a popularity contest (unless you're a woman running for election then please ignore this one - you're gonna need all the help you can get!)
This one is closely linked to Number 4. One of the reasons we don't say "no" enough is we are afraid of that person's reaction when we do. We're worried about how disappointed they might be in us when we do say "no".
Just try it with a friend. They ask you to go to something that you don't want to go to. You say "no thanks'. Does that friend take great offence and never speak to you again? I highly doubt it or they weren't much of a friend in the first place! They may be disappointed but they'll get over it and that disappointment isn't your fault.
This relates to the workplace too. We can bend over backwards to help clients with something that really isn't a great idea. The smart thing would be to say "no I can't do that and here's why". If there's one less flashing, scrolling ticker bar on a website because I didn't feel obliged to please a client then it's all good.
6- Take some 'ME' time
Historically women have always been multitaskers. Even more so now, as many are working parents and partners. When we're guilty of a few of the above points, we have very little time for ourselves. This often leads to overwhelm and a few badly timed meltdowns (or is that just me?)
We seem to live in a world where we are perpetually busy and that has become the norm. How dare we think to take some time for ourselves, to recharge.
Well, ladies, let me tell you that the consequences of not taking that time far outweigh the guilt felt. Often leading to more serious health and mental issues.
Give yourself permission to take some time off. Step away from the keyboard. Let someone else cook dinner while you relax with a book and a glass of wine. Go outside for a walk. Whatever you are escaping is always there when you get back (especially the dishes unless you're really lucky or leave for a week!)
Say no to something you don;t really want to do and spend some time on yourself - you'll thank yourself for it.
This one goes for the men too!
So what happens when we give ourselves permission to master the above skills? Possibly nothing life-changing. But you never know until you try.
It's not selfish to want to look out for yourself. You can have the best partner, friends or family around you but ultimatley there's only the one you!
Be good to yourself!
Let's all embrace who we are and who we can be and own it - just like Betty!