Somebody asked me recently – what does it mean to be a female CEO?
At this question I pause. A myriad of thoughts run through me, admittedly this question conjures up far too many thoughts to answer in a nice, neat practical answer – perhaps if you are a woman you can relate? This is like asking; why are you, YOU?
However, what I can say is that I don’t want to be recognised just because I am a woman. Like others, I am disgusted by the bias, the pay gap, the physical and sexual abuse that continues to be inflected upon women all around the world. These are struggles I have had to face personally, as have far too many of my girlfriends, family and sisters around the world. These are falls, scars and bruises that our male counterparts perhaps haven’t had to battle with, certainly not on such a large scale.
So perhaps because of this or indeed inspite of it, I’ve built a very strong resilience over the years. Resilience as an entrepreneur serves you well. When you are working to the bone for little financial reward in the early years, or when someone you trusted doesn’t keep their promise, it is that hard iron steel that solidifies your core, it is those extra reserves that you must drawn on. Keep going, rise stronger, believe in better.
I'm also in my feminine stride when I am empathising with my clients and my team. A skill I find very useful when I want to try to get to the root of a problem quickly and figure out what is just noise and what is the real issue. Empathy leads to team collaboration. If we understand where you are coming from, it is easier to work together. Collaborative teams achieve more, it is as simple as that.
One thing I’ve never managed to do is remove all emotion from my leadership style. Although this was recommended to me more than once during my development. A phrase often fed back in performance appraisals was ‘Don’t take the job so personally’. This feedback was often lost on me. If I don’t take work personally, then I’m not taking it seriously. Breezing in and out of the office each day doesn’t give me purpose, in fact, taking the job personally is actually one of the things that makes me brilliant as an entrepreneur. In the services industry it is the little extras, the finer details, the extra time and care that helps you stand out above the rest.
Days like International Women’s Day shouldn’t have to exist, but I am very glad that they do. We are nowhere near equal playing fields as yet and until then, society, (and I include myself in that bucket), needs a moment to just pause and reflect on where we have been and what eutopia would look like.
Happy International Women's Day 2020!