Updated: Sep 29, 2019
How many books have you seen recently that had ‘girl’ in the title? The girl with the dragon tattoo. The girl in the train. Gone girl. There's no bookshelf without at least one book with 'girl' in the title (or 'f**k' or 's**t', but that's a topic for another time!) on it.
Now, I stopped being a girl quite a long time ago.
And if I’m not mistaken so have the women in those books!
Why do I bring this up? Because I look at calling yourself a 'girl' as one of these things that make women appear small. Do you ever hear any men refer to themselves as ‘boys’ (other than when they mention they have to go to the ‘little boy’s room’ which I’ve always found a bit weird)?
Referring to women as girls is one of the ways in which we make women look smaller, younger, friendlier and more innocent.
All things you don’t really need when you are working in a very much grown-up environment. Where you want to be counted as a full member of the team. And where you want to have authority and be listened to. Just like the big boys (ha!).
I call myself a Career and Women Empowerment Coach, because I want to help women - you - feel empowered. Empowered to do your best work. Empowered to make a difference: for yourself, for your loved ones and for the world. Empowered to know yourself and know how you can make that difference. And for that you need a voice and you need to feel confident in the knowledge that you are being heard and being counted.
So, what can we do to ‘empower’ ourselves? Stop calling ourselves girls, obviously. But here are a couple of other things you can start doing right now.
1. Check your language
Read the language you use in your emails. As Tara Mohr says in her book ‘Playing Big’ how often do you use words like ‘just’? Or ‘actually’? 'I hope that', anyone? They are words and phrases that undermine the power of what you’re saying.
And the same story goes for when you speak. How often do you catch yourself saying things like ‘I am probably wrong but ..’ or ‘Does this make sense?’ or ‘Sorry’ (a particular favourite of mine. In the UK it is almost compulsory to say sorry every other sentence, not only when you have made a mistake. As a plain-speaking Dutch woman this was the cause of many a heated discussion when I first met my partner!).
Since I’ve started checking my emails and the way I talk for this type of words I’ve become very aware of how ingrained this habit is. The habit of wanting to come across as ‘nice’. Being apologetic almost.
Whilst what you’re doing is your job.
You’ve got the right to be where you are. You don’t have to apologise for doing your job. Check your language!
2. Establish female networks
Establish good female networks in your place of work, or outside it. Nothing is as valuable as the support of a group of women when you work.
Better still: find yourself a mentor, or become one. Supporting women in your place of work, is one of the most rewarding things that you can be involved in.
So, what can you do now? Make a point of finding out if there is a Women’s Network in your place of work and attend their meetings. Or set one up if there isn’t. Also, find out if there is a Mentoring Scheme and ask to be mentored or become a mentor. Be conscious of the women you work with and help them where you can. Go for a coffee. Be there for them, just as they will be there for you when you need it.
3. Together make your voices heard
Ever been in meetings where you felt you were not being listened to? Even though your ideas were just as valid as those of others? The answer is in shine theory. Never heard of it? No, neither had I, but it is a big thing in the States!
Shine theory is where you strengthen the (female) voices in the room by endorsing what they’re saying and building on this. The term shine theory originates from US podcast host Ann Friedman. She came up with the phrase "I don't shine if you don't shine." Her point is, that it is far more beneficial to support your colleagues than to compete with each other for recognition, praise and career advancement.
How do you do it? In practice it involves making a point of repeating your colleague’s suggestions to ensure that all of you are being heard in meetings, crediting one another to prevent others claiming the ideas as their own (‘I like the suggestion Susan made about this and would like to add …’) and celebrating each other’s successes.
On our own we can climb to a certain point. If we work together and celebrate each other’s successes we can be elevated to another level!
So, there you are, a couple of things to empower you right where you are! What will you do next to empower yourself?