I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there has never been a better time to be a woman. It’s also important to note that the percentage of women who are household breadwinners is rising; women are 33 percent more likely than their male peers to have earned a degree by age 27, and women even hold some of the highest offices in the world.
Even with the strides women have made – currently representing 51 percent of the population, 57 percent of college graduates, half the workplace, and 54 percent of voters – we only hold 18 percent of the top leadership positions across all sectors. That could be because many of us seem unwilling to use our own power. We give it to our families, our friends, and even our employers, but we seldom step into it and do something that we are passionate about. Instead we move in directions that take us further from our dreams and rob us of opportunities and connections that could help us live a happier, healthier life. So the question is, what gives?
Why Women Avoid Power
Women have been conditioned to believe that our primary role is to support and care for others. Even now, this attitude is alive and well. Case in point, at work women are usually expected to answer the phone, set up meetings, take notes and (yes) even make the coffee. But it isn’t just wages and workplace behaviors that are at play. When it comes to the barriers that may be holding women back, the existing societal and institutional structure, which includes women’s own attitudes, help maintain the status quo. Women have difficulty getting ahead because they simply aren’t stepping fully into their power. In fact, the biggest obstacle to claiming that power is that we aren’t completely sure how to tap into it and where to channel it. We’ve been so busy devoting our time and energy to everyone else around us that we may not even know where to start. Whether we are talking work, politics, or personal life, the dynamics of power are the same.
Power To Achieve Goals and Values
One way to do that is to figure out where you want to channel your power. Many women find that after years of doing what they should be doing instead of what they want to be doing, they don’t know where their own satisfaction lies, much less what their strengths and skills are. I don’t recommend anyone strike out blindly, because you won’t get far without a plan. It’s important to start by moving in a direction that is aligned with your goals and values. That’s where your friends come in. Turn to the women in your life for advice, because they know you better than you know yourself. They also aren’t bogged down by your particular routine and worries, and are in a better position to notice the things that you’re inherently good at. The women in your life will also be your greatest cheerleaders and supporters. I’ve often said that I don’t know where I’d be today without my sisters. They have been there when no one else has.
Once you discover your direction, build from there. Connect with the women in your life, the women who are on a similar path, because connections matter. When women reach out and connect with each other, it not only helps each woman step into her own power, it changes their lives, and ultimately it can help us change the world. The women-helping-women movement grows through each and every connection. Together we create our greatest impact and truly make the difference to transform our lives and the world we live in.