I set up this website with the intention of helping women to get further at work. More specifically, helping women to work together to get themselves further. Reading eye-opening books such as Lean In and Unfinished Business has helped me to see how important it is to include men in the conversation too, to encourage everyone to “lean in” more – either at work or at home – and to put our heads above the parapet and ask for what we really want.
But it’s a daunting task – being open and vulnerable about something that’s important to us. There’s always that (potentially paralysing) fear that we won’t get what we want. Even worse still, now everyone will know what you want, and may judge you for it. From women choosing to not have children and wanting to focus on their careers, to men asking for paternity leave to focus more on their families; there is a broad spectrum of potential vulnerability, judgement and shame that we need to be brave enough to face if we want to be truly happy.
I struggle with this task – I struggle with asking for what I want, and I struggle with including men in the conversation. In fact, I often struggle with including women in the conversation too! Even though I write a blog, and tweet/Facebook, and am a member of various Facebook groups, and attend numerous inspirational and networking events! If I have learned anything from BREXIT and the US Election, it is that I choose to surround myself with people who are of a similar mindset to myself, and either dismiss or avoid those who think differently.
There’s a sense of survival instinct in this approach – avoiding the vulnerability of being challenged on my views, and a sense of shaming judgement too – avoiding spending my time on people who are clearly too sexist/racist/ignorant for me to engage. But who does it benefit?
I recently attended a Creativity Workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell in New York, still in shock in the days after the US Election. I wasn’t sure if they would even mention the results but they clearly had to, as the audience was in a sort of numb, disoriented paralysis! The best advice they shared was that in situations like this we always have a choice: we can dig our heels in and insist self-righteously that we were right, we were on the right side of history, and that it is the others who have to learn! Or, we can step back and assess the situation and try to learn how this happened in the first place, to avoid it happening again in the future.
I’m not quite there yet, but I can see how that would be a far more helpful approach for everybody in the future – a more collaborative way of trying to see the world, to try to work together and get each other that little bit further.
To help me practice this, I’m going to try to be more open about the many different events I attend – not just sharing the information here, but talking about it in the office as well. I know I avoid mentioning my many feminist events to my male colleagues out of my own fear and insecurities, and I need to be braver if I want to change the conversations I’m having, and the circles I move in.
If anyone has any other suggestions on ways and means for me to practice doing this, please let me know?