“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”
— Henri Bergson
According to the media, the battle of the sexes continues and women are the underdog. We often hear messages that present women’s situation as lacking compared to men.
- Women are paid less.
- Women aren’t in the board rooms or the executive suites.
- Women don’t have large enough goals and we don’t think big enough.
- Women aren’t owning “real” businesses.
- Women aren’t going into science and technology.
- Women don’t network properly.
- Women don’t ask for anything.
After reading a few of these, one has to wonder, do women do anything right?
Women are following a path defined by men – a path they have been paving for a long time. Many women respond by rejecting femininity to be like men.
The feminist movement brought many vital and valuable gifts to women, but instead of liberating the feminine, it locked it away and adopted patriarchal norms, believing that masculine is better than feminine. Instead of bringing the gifts, strengths and powers of femininity into mainstream expression, women changed to succeed in a man’s world. We gained in rights and opportunities and abandoned femininity.
–Cynthia Occelli, What being Feminine Really Means
Others respond to the man’s world with fear of losing what they already have, believing that they are not enough to be in his world and it’s impossible to have enough in it. They then enter battle against men to get a fair share of what has been historically denied women. Some become equality warriors, fighting for a 50/50 share in everything from wages, jobs, positions, networking and more.
In the end, all this really does is feed women’s lack of confidence.
…somewhere between the classroom and the cubicle, the rules change, and they don’t realize it. They slam into a work world that doesn’t reward them for perfect spelling and exquisite manners. The requirements for adult success are different, and their confidence takes a beating.
— Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, “The Confidence Gap,” The Atlantic
Without confidence, a solid identity and self-esteem (lost when we relinquish our femininity), it becomes difficult to define goals.
… if you determine that you are in some way deficient and cannot reach your goal, you are more likely to make less resolutions and goals. If you fall into this category [low self-efficacy], you are one of those people who tends to give up rather than fight and push toward your efforts.
–Dr. Gail Gross, “Teaching Children Confidence Through Goal Setting”, Huffington Post
Some women who do not achieve their goals may find comfort in the media’s inequality messages rather than face their own low confidence or self-esteem issues. If these women perceive these same media messages to be consistently correct over time, those messages will transform into beliefs, even if the true reason for not achieving a goal is something else.
For example, let’s look at Jennifer Lawrence’s story of pay inequality.
“When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).”
–Jennifer Lawrence, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?,” Lenny
Through one set of eyes, Jennifer Lawrence experienced sexism – she shouldn’t need to fight for money and she was treated unfairly. But through another set of eyes, her eyes as well, her pay was less because she decided not to continue negotiating because she was happy with the money she was already getting.
If we believe what we read about women’s wages, her problem is society’s fault and a legal problem. But given her perspective, is it?
It makes one wonder if women are seeing battles that don’t really exist because we keep hearing that’s how we should be seeing them.
What if we saw the world in a different way?
A way where we are winning and succeeding? A world where there is possibility and abundance?
- Women are earning more money.
- Women are starting more companies.
- We have more women CEOs of Fortune 500s now than ever before.
- Women are choosing work/life balance – it’s really a blend.
- Women are dominating the science fields except for 2.
- Women are graduating college at amazing rates.
- Women owned companies knock expectations out of the park.
Doesn’t it feel better to read these?
Women need 3 things:
- Hear more about how women achieved in the past – Women created many programming languages. An Abbess called for Church reform in the 1100s. The Trung sisters in Vietnam fought off the Han Chinese. And more.
- Hear more about how women are solving the problems – Knowing that some women have achieved their goals gives others hope and inspiration to do this themselves.
- Hear more positive messages – from articles to affirmations. I’m a strong believer in affirmations – for ourselves and complements towards others. We know that they work because of how people respond to positive feedback at work and in school.
“Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.”
— Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, “The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio,” The Harvard Business Review
We can’t depend on the media to change how they write. Negativity gets a lot of attention and can be great for profits.
Instead, women need to take responsibility to shift their own thinking – stop listening to how we are deficient and hear more about how we are overcoming challenges, solving problems and exceeding everyone’s expectations. We need to stop the negative talk to ourselves and other women and ask – How are we enough? How are we winning? What are we doing right? How can can we improve step by step, everyday?