Recently, I attended a conference on women empowerment in business. I gained a hefty amount of insights that I cannot trade for another experience.
Booking a flight and accommodation to Kuala Lumpur with only 5 days lead time isn’t something I normally do. Trained by a financially savvy husband, I find it challenging to make that decision to travel at such short notice. I got my husband’s blessing, and off I went to Kuala Lumpur. What I thought would be something not worth my time ended up being one of the most insightful business trips ever.
The key of the conference I attended was The Rise of Feminism, and much of the topics centred around this. I’ve learnt so much during these 4 days, and here I lay out my key takeaways from the conference.
Gender Inequality is Real
The issue of gender inequality or lack of gender fairness is a much-discussed topic around the world. Emma Watson is a great role model in this area, alongside other notable names like Maria Eitel and Malala Yousafzai. Women generally have to go through a trying time to be in the workplace, with obvious signs of inequality and lack of fairness reflected by pay scale.
I’m blessed to have been raised in Singapore where Gender Inequality is not felt as often as it is in other communities around the world. Yet, I feel the disparity when it comes to being a Female Entrepreneur. I’ve had the experience of men disregarding my words and experience just because I’m a woman. I get the usual “Are you sure that’s what you’re trying to say?” as though I have no clue how to express my ideas.
But the common thread shared by all the speakers is this:
The gap of gender inequality or the lack of fairness between genders can be closed up when we get more women involved in decision-making process.
Such powerful words.
In order for the gender gap to close, women should be involved in decision-making process. There are some steps to take and rules of engagement in that sense that can be broken down into 3 segments: the Self, the immediate Community, and the World. These will be shared in 3 separate posts for your reading convenience.
Let’s begin with the first segment, the Self.
1. Take up management roles
Have you ever felt undervalued in your career, and felt like you cannot progress up the corporate ladder because you agree with their thoughts of you? Yet, you never knew why their thoughts should even matter to you.
This feeling of discouragement triggers the phenomenon called upward immobility.
That tendency to take a step back and not move forward happens only when women feel discouraged and undervalued. Specifically, discouraged that our thoughts are not heard; undervalued when a man must somehow speak on our behalf. You know, that funny incident in the office when your male colleagues (or team-mate) ask you “Is that what you really mean to say?”
I like how the speaker shared that women should aspire to be evidence-based when it comes to standing out in a male-dominated workplace. Show facts and figures to add credibility to your words. Then, taking up management roles wouldn’t be a challenge anymore.
2. Take up responsibilities beyond their scope of work
While it’s true that women need to work twice as hard as men to get to the same level as men, it’s okay. There is such great benefit in taking up responsibilities beyond your scope of work. For example, if your role in your organization is a Marketing Executive, take the initiative to be Marketing Manager when duty calls. Show to your superiors that you have what it takes to hold that responsibility. Once your worth is shown, more often than not, it becomes easier to request for a promotion. Yeehaw!
3. Women must prove themselves worthy
There’s great strength in being a woman. I always find it inspiring to see mothers managing their households and business at the same time. Women are made to be great executioners because we know how to multi-task and when to put on the right hat for the right task. However, there are women who overuse excuses related to personal life.
Work is work; Personal is personal. Don’t bring personal matter into business, and vice versa. That’s only fair for everyone.
A friend of mine shared how she didn’t receive her online order for 3 weeks (when she paid for expedited shipping). When she contacted the business owner, a lady on the other end apologized and mentioned that her daughter was ill. As such, she was unable to mail out in time. Yes, while we need to shed compassion, this is a big no-no when it comes to business. Why? It’s okay to share from one woman to another, but it’s not okay if you happen to have the luck of having a
She was in a dilemma: “Should I be compassionate, or tell her that I’ve made the purchase and deserve an update if there’s going to be a delay”
Work is work; personal is personal.
In any business, one bad review can affect your business tenfold. So, always have contingencies in your business for the worst possible situation.
4. Challenge yourself constantly
“Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.”
– Dalai Lama
Search for knowledge to better yourselves, so that you can help others. I believe that women aren’t selfish in nature, and that’s our most beautiful trait. We’re made to always think of our families first, followed by us. When the basic is settled, we think next of how we can make an impact to the community closest to us. Even to the simplest act of giving a warm meal to your neighbour is that act of thinking of the community.
To create the largest impact in the lives of those we care about, remember to constantly upgrade ourselves. Knowledge is like a spear and it can cut through any doubtful minds. Don’t be afraid to learn, because there’s nothing wrong with that.
5. Embrace your uniqueness
Women are made different from men, but women complement men. We shouldn’t be like men; we should embrace our differences, and believe in the unique traits that make us women. Believe it or not, women do
Women are complementary to men. One thing for sure that all women must accept: we aren’t the most practical creatures on Earth. Think about the number of times we use our emotions to make a decision. Yup, I know you’re looking at your recent purchase of those Jimmy Choos, or Kate Spade bag. We’ve all been there.
That emotional intelligence we have makes us great human beings. We know when to be tough, and when to be soft. I personally have had the experience of knowing when we shouldn’t work with someone in our business. More often that not, my judgement call and instincts are proven right.
Let’s not negate men altogether. Men too have their uniqueness that complements us. Men are practical in nature and can see when we’re using too much of our heart. Accepting their views and values sometimes makes us better human beings. Men can see what women cannot so don’t let our differences be the cause of fighting. We don’t need to be equal, we just need fairness in the way we are treated.
Men can see what women cannot and vice versa. We don’t need to be equal, we just need fairness in the way we are treated. That only means that it’s okay to embrace your unique qualities and traits as a woman.
6. Cultural stereotypes are well, stereotypes
“Women are meant to be in the homes” or “A woman’s place is in the kitchen”
Who hasn’t heard that before, right?
Those are cultural stereotypes meant to deprive women of any chance of advancement. Come on, this is the 21st Century we’re living in! Women have the right to advance in life like men do.
Don’t allow these cultural stereotypes to cloud your judgement, thereby becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. You have what it takes to move forward and upward in life, only when you believe. You’re not meant to be in the kitchen alone; you can still be in the office and be home for your family.
Like I’ve shared earlier, I think women are one of the most amazing creatures on Earth. We can multi-task so well that the men in our lives call us “Superwoman”. Nothing wrong with being in the kitchen for dinner, and in the office in the day right?
Okay folks, it’s time to take a breather. What do you think of these opinions so far?
Once the self and immediate family’s needs are settled, we move on to impact the next group:
The Immediate Community
The immediate community here refers to the ones closest to our hearts and our geographical location. That’s the next stage we can move forward to.
1. Women need to be negotiators, on behalf of other women
In order for women to have a say in anything, women must themselves move up to higher positions in their organizations. Having a female figure in the management or director level of any organization will ensure that the needs of women are heard. If you have what it takes to be a Manager, Director, Chairman, President, etc, take up those positions and stand up for the rights of women in your immediate community. Women must take up these leadership positions so that they can become leaders, changers and makers of positive impact.
2. Women must support other women
Honestly, like attracts like. Don’t be the type of woman who will bring other women down. You’re the same species and should be supporting one another. Life is not a contest; it’s a community. Stop it already with all the catfights. There really is nothing more important to defend that gender fairness. Support one another, so you can climb up faster to meet your united goal.
3. Women must remain compassionate
Just like a mother to her children, women must remain compassionate despite the leadership position she holds. Like a mother, you wouldn’t give up on your child who is struggling to walk. You help them up every time they fall, and be their crutches until they can walk on their own. While this may sound contradicting to one of the earlier points, I assure you it isn’t. This compassion is especially towards the people under your care like your staff, your partners and your clients.
When a staff’s family member has been diagnosed with cancer, you support their family by ensuring they are never required to work overtime. When your partner just gave birth, you tell her to rest. When your clients explain that they need a refund because they’ve lost their job, you do what you can to refund even to the smallest percentage possible.
Your compassion is Karma. It will come around one day when you or your organization needs it most.
4. Women must lead with foresight
Again, women are great as mothers. But they sometimes forget that motherly instinct when it comes to their work. If a mother can identify the strength of her child, there is no reason for her to not be able to identify the strength of her team members. Play with the strengths of your team, and you’ll see your organization grow much faster than you can imagine. My staff is a very talented artist. She loves to paint and draw. When I first hired her, my intention was to let her take on the role of a social media manager. I’ve since shifted her job scope to include storyboarding, graphic design and creative direction for projects. She’s excelling at that, because I’ve identified her strength and made her develop that strength.
5. Women must be sincere in their actions
Be sincere in anything you do. Your sincerity will shine through you like a shooting star. It will glimmer and sparkle, showing others around you the unique value you bring to your organization and community. Your sincerity in care and love towards them makes them feel valued. Humans, when valued, can prosper and propel forth really fast. Inspire them through your sincerity and the community will grow positive.
Creating an impact on the world begins with your self, then your immediate community. Now that you’ve succeeded at your self and immediate community, it’s time to create an impact on the world.
1. Women must be present to the world as makers, changers and shifters of the world
This is the most powerful tip shared by one of the speakers. Women must be present to create change. Having a female representative will inspire others to step up as well. Aren’t we inspired when we see Emma Watson speaking about our rights? How about that spine-shivering moment when Malala shares her story of survival from the hands of dangerous men?
Having a woman present at the top inspires a woman to create a movement and revolution for change because we care. No, we don’t need to fight to get there. We just need to use our intellect and be ourselves to get there. Embrace our unique traits of sheer determination, strength and compassion to get forward, together.
2. Women must fight for rights and causes close to their hearts
Fight for what you believe in. If it’s zero-waste, go for it. If it’s children protection, go for it. The more we defend our community in the world, the more we become mothers that women are meant to be. Mothers are not only for their children but also children of others. That’s the true nature of being a woman, and we should embrace it.
3. Women’s sincerity mustn’t be pegged to monetary value
Don’t wear the capitalist hat all the time. There are times when you must put that hat down and offer sincerity with heart, not monetary value. If you can even think that “I should donate to this village and bring a media crew over to cover it”, you should stop there. That in itself is pegging your sincerity to a monetary value i.e. marketing and publicity dollars.
4. Women must look after all humankind
Women must look at everyone as human beings – not by gender, race, religion or income level. Women must look after all humankind because we are mothers of the world. We care about feelings of others, and we cannot be selfish in anything we do. All humankind, regardless of how they treat us.
5. Lastly, women must care for everything that’s on this planet — the same planet that held us in comfort & challenges for years without remorse.
If you can care and look after all humankind, your heart will naturally protect this planet and everything on it. The animals, the plants and the man-made creations on this planet too. Having a heart shouldn’t be a weakness; it’s a strength meant to be embraced. This planet has protected you, comforted you and aid your growth all these years without remorse. When the time is right for you, embrace your womanness and protect the planet with love.
My lady bosses, business babes, Femprenuers… Once we understand that we are different, we can move upwards faster.
Once we believe that whatever we are doing will give an impression towards others of our kind, we will be better than we are yesterday — all the time.
When we look at it from an Islamic Worldview, Prophet Muhammad was working for Siti Khadijah (his first wife). He supported her brilliance in running a business and didn’t mind being a subordinate of her. If our Prophet isn’t shy of being under the leadership of a woman, why should our men?
You’re no less of a man if and when you’re working for a woman. You’re no less masculine for supporting a woman leader. You’re definitely no less of a leader of the household if and when you support the working woman.
In summary, the best leaders have traits a woman possess: compassion, love and sincerity.
The best leaders play amongst the strengths of their followers or team. They understand the strengths of every single one on their team and assign tasks befitting them. A good leader is able to identify the befitting roles for their team and trust that they will uphold their role to the best of their abilities.
The best leaders… are a parent to their team. Like how a woman is a mother to their children, women leaders need to also understand the people working for them like their own children — play to their strengths, be compassionate with their challenges, and help them grow in areas they are passionate about. Parents also see the potential in their team, so they must invest in their team’s endeavour to be better individuals.
Love them with all your heart as a mother would; don’t expect too much from them — let them grow naturally, but you be there to guide them all the way. Most importantly, don’t give up. Persevere and believe that the are they captain of their life’s voyage. They will sail on their own, but they need a map and a compass to guide them. The map is what you planned for them with their insights, but the compass is their guide i.e. Allah, the universe or whatever they believe in.
And that my friends are the worthy tips I’ve learnt from Female Entrepreneurs throughout the conference I was at. That is how women can rise to power for a better world.
Share with us in the comments below which tip impacted you the most, and which of these tips you’d like to implement almost immediately into your daily life and organization.
Signing out from Fempreneur Secrets, where Business Babes reveal secrets.