Hands on your hips. Chest out. Head high. Imagine yourself as a superhero.
And yes guys, this one's for you too. If you need a surge of confidence, courage and a quick reminder of your leadership strengths, then this two-minute superpower pose will be a gift of a find. Use it before a tender pitch, a management meeting or before you enter a crucial conversation.
But use it in moderation.
Not because its power lessens with frequent use, but because you shouldn't have to. You shouldn't have to keep reminding yourself that you can be, and already are a leader. And yet, many women in organisations across the world struggle with that confidence...
So what can we do to change that?
A Half-Open Door to Women Leaders
Despite having come a long way in the last century, even in the most developed countries, women are still responsible for 80% of domestic chores, don't have equal pay, and endure limited access to finance and real support as business leaders. And that's in countries where we have equal rights!
Positive change has happened... absolutely. But we're not there yet.
For instance, when we celebrate the 38% of social enterprises led by women (compared to 5% of the top 100 on the London Stock Exchange), many often attribute it to women being more 'suited' to working within a more caring, community-oriented sector rather than mainstream business. But by doing this, we continue to pigeon hole genders. Just because the stereotype happens to be a positive, it doesn't mean it's not a stereotype.
The point is that gender bias can show its face in far more subtle forms, and isn't often intended to exclude or harm someone else but its effects can create an environment where women aren't able to really thrive.
An Ecosystem of Support
Perceptions need to change.
We need an ecosystem of support that helps someone find their strengths as a leader, be recognised for them, and succeed. Support that considers the particular challenges of women who are developing their leadership in a culture still conflicted with gender bias.
It's a big challenge, and one that needs to involve a wider landscape of inputs ranging from education to financial capital. So what exactly can we do as individuals?
A few suggestions:
- Identify possibilities for change by becoming more aware of gender bias
- Create a safe space to share experiences with other female peers and support each other without feeling judged or misunderstood
- Don't focus your leadership around how you'd be perceived by others... focus on advancing your 'purpose' as a leader. Develop a growth mindset.
And remember that your learning is a continual development journey, one that never quite reaches an end point. So keep supporting each other and you'll never need another 'superpower' pose again.
Can you think of a time where you've experienced this? How did it impact you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.