Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to begin a project with someone that I wish all women entering high school, college, and the workforce could meet. This person exemplifies at least a good chunk of what we need more of in society, namely:
* Compassion, but not at the expense of reason
* Expedition, but not at the expense of quality
* Class, but not at the expense of goofiness and joy
* Forthrightness, but not at the expense of manners
* Strength, but not at the expense of kindness
* Humor, but not at the expense of others
* Insight, but not at the expense of the landscape
* Connections, but not at the expense of relationships
Why only should women meet this person? Because she is a she. She works in a VERY male dominated industry yet when she enters the room, all the men immediately defer – wrong word – respect her. It isn’t because she’s a ballbuster. It isn’t that she’s their boss. It isn’t because of a paternalistic notion of female inferiority. Nope, it’s because she commands it.
But unlike many strong women I know, she commands it not through yelling. Not through shrill exclamations of authority. Not through faux sexual energy, either in dress or demeanor, that makes all men think they might have a chance with her if genuflect to her charms.
I think much of her authority comes from a few places. First, a deep well of authenticity. She doesn’t speak to be heard. She speaks when she has something to say. Second, a spring of confidence that emanates the vibe that she doesn’t really have anything left to prove. She appears remarkably happy in her own skin. Third, a remarkable amount of optimism and ‘what the hell, let’s give it a try.’ Fear of failure doesn’t really seem to hold her back. Last, the willingness to look a little foolish. I think this last piece comes as a aggregation of the preceding three – when you’re confident, authentic, and free from an otherwise crushing fear of failure incumbent in all of us, you tend to let the air of formality drop a little and do and say things in which someone less confident might not engage. Remember, it’s the crazies who are the innovators and freedom from fear seems to be a common theme among them.
I wish more people – young women in particular – could see how this person acts. I wish they could see that you don’t have to be a ‘dude’ in order to succeed. That you don’t have to abrogate what makes you unique in order to be taken seriously. That you don’t have to buy clothes from Forever21 to get an audience.
Embrace the freedom. Work your ass off to be the smartest person in the room. Build the connections that enable you to flit among worlds with ease. Stop the buzzword bullshit that is a surefire sign that you don’t know what you’re talking about and instead have a severe lack of confidence in your own ability to formulate an idea. And never forget – you are the smarter sex.