March is an important month for women the world over. 8th March has been designated by the United Nations (UN) as a holiday to be observed world wide for the purpose of focusing on women and their issues. Women have many issues for sure. The female gender has its own idiosyncrasies. Biological, social, cultural and now even in the corporate space women come with their peculiarities requiring specific and non-specific applications. With issues so wide, diverse; so specific and important, its no wonder that so many years after the UN Declaration, women are not quite there yet.
I coach women of different genres and from diverse vocations. I can string a common thread. Women care intensely: about their children; their relationships, what the next person thinks about them; their families etc. Like a scrambled egg, you cannot separate the yoke from the white. It’s all blended together and as Coach, my task is together, how to identify, rank and deal with each one of the challenges. It is a humbling but satisfying process because in understanding first what is going on, arriving at what is important in her life, she must be given the opportunity to hear, see and accept herself.
As a coach, I have experienced women in nature and as nurturers. They take responsibility for the actions of other people around them without ever realizing it. When children fail or act up, women take responsibility. When a promotion materializes, they accept but constantly live with self-doubt as well as the doubts from family and colleagues. When relationships fail they take the hit. How is it possible with so much negative headwinds that they keep it together? One can only imagine! There is help on the horizon and women are slowly unwinding to the day when they can get help without judgement. They can be open about their challenges with the realistic hope of overcoming them and emerging more confident and empowered. Time has come when women can walk through open doors and find a familiar, friendly face.
Coaching women is primarily about understanding them. I mentioned the analogy of a scrambled egg. Unless you know what an egg was before it got scrambled, it is difficult to deal. Everything is important to a woman. Her family, their health, her job, her subordinates, her bosses, her friends her spouse. When there is an issue at work, it affects all these other parts of her. It is vitally important to listen to a woman’s story before you work through where the pain is. What may manifest as a lack of achievement at work could really be about a failing relationship or a defiant child.
Fundamentally women value relationships and prefer a supportive team than excel at their own brilliance. It has also been confirmed that women have their own jargon, their own language. It is also true that the language of the workplace is also alien to the woman sometimes. Men have a jargon that they use among themselves and can carry on in this regard without the woman knowing what was being discussed. Given that each gender seems to have their own type of ‘speak’ the most important first thing to do in any situation for both men and women is to establish effective communication.
Women’s empowerment stars in a few steps. The Coach must hear the woman’s story; summarize what they are hearing and get the woman to confirm what they are saying and allowing them to reflect on it. This step enables the woman to hear and see herself the way other people see her. It enables her to identify and amplify what is important to her. The next step is allowing the woman to rank the issues she has raised in order of importance to her. This process does several things i) narrows the issues and de-clutter her mind. ii) she can confidently cede responsibility to others of those issues that do not concern her directly iii) she is only responsible for those things over which she has control iv) she is perfectly entitled to choose her battles v) only she has the power to act to see the desired changes.
This awareness process is very helpful to the woman. She starts to focus on those issues over which she has interest and control. Doing what she loves means she will do a very good job and that will gain her recognition and increase her self-esteem. Empowerment of women starts with doing what they really love.
Women do not have to compete with anyone whether in the work place at home or in business. They must be aware of where their strengths lie and be authentic. It is much easier and consistent to be true to your inner self always.
The Author is a Life and Performance Coach