Three Key Words About Women Leadership: Reality, Beyond, Grow

Reality: The Data Reveals a Gap

Women-empowerment is something I value very much, especially as I get older. When I was younger, I worked in law firms and I worked long hours just like my male colleagues. I didn’t encounter too many struggles as a woman on most days. It was just the life of a lawyer. Everyone was equal.

As I got older and more senior, I began noticing the differences between men and women: male colleagues are much more confident in pitching to clients and also asking for higher pay and promotions, while female colleagues (including myself) are much more reserved and hesitant to speak out for themselves. Women also have more to balance, such as when to have kids and how to take care of kids. These lead to a noticeable trend that women representation decreases rapidly at post-associate levels (see Women in Law Firms by McKinsey&Company)

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Female founders and investors are also under represented. AllRaise is an organization with a mission to accelerate the success of female founders and investors, and the data about diversity is not optimistic.

 
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Beyond: When Women Lead

I don’t define “women leaders” as leaders at work only. To me, “women leaders” are females who:

Know their value clearly

Express their value loudly

Take actions to live out the value boldly

Show compassion and support to people around them selflessly

Women leaders naturally can do good work and end up being a manager at work. I am happy to see so many females not only in the news but also around my real life, leading in big and small businesses. But I also have friends who deferred a glamorous title and chose an unconventional path to living a life:

  • A Harvard law school graduate who didn’t practice law but opened a flower shop with almost a dozen shops

  • A diplomatic officer who left the government sector to serve part-time at a church

  • A graduate with physics and economics scholar background who left data consulting and launched her yoga business at home for moms-to-be and kids

These friends inspired me in many ways. Their stories differ in thousands of ways, as do the causes. But deep down, they made the choice based on what they believe and their actions tell the world that a woman leader leads with freedom of choice.

Grow: How to Become A Leader

We can practice gaining a better awareness of ourselves and have a stronger and clearer sense of who we are. It’s the root of everything. Don’t let your environment dictate your identity. We encounter disappointments almost every day. Don’t let these suppress the good and brave parts about ourselves.

Also, I think it’s harmless to admit that we are different than men — physically and mentally! At home and work, we have different strengths so we can complement each other. There’s no need to add stress and responsibility on our shoulders as there are areas where we have a limit. And that’s not because of being a woman, but being a human being. Don’t blame yourself or overthink too much. Celebrate like men for mini-wins. We deserve recognition.

Women leaders are not defined by their professional titles. Whoever influences and motivates others is a leader. Like the examples I shared about my friends, they are not all executives. But they’ve made a choice and that choice planted a seed in the hearts of other women (and men) about hope and other possibilities in life.

Women should support other women by sharing their struggles, progress, and victories. We should also listen and reach out to those who need mentorship. I received a lot of mentorships at work and in life, but I do feel the advice from females is different. They just know better about my situation and where my struggles and doubts come from. They would assure me that I am not alone. That is extremely comforting.

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I am a woman who worked for more than 10 years, changed my career path, and moved from China to America. There were times when I followed and other times when I did the leading. I’ve led women older than me who have lots of real responsibilities but still have dreams and aspirations. They are so gentle and loving, but also doubtful and hesitant. They seem to have many conflicting feelings and thoughts, and they have trouble overcoming their situation. They are constantly trying to find a balance between family, their career, and their dreams. I see them, as I am one of them. I hope with each others’ support, we can overcome these struggles.