RECOGNIZING THE “ME” IN “WOMEN”
I was recently invited to join the Board of Directors of a company owned by a Muslim organization in Singapore. When I showed up at the first Board meeting, what struck me was that I was the only woman board member. Moreover, nearly everyone else was Malay-Muslim (I am Chinese), much older than me, and clearly already knew one another beforehand!
It was an interesting dynamic. From being part of the majority Chinese race in Singapore, I was now both a racial AND gender minority in this group. I wondered if I would be able to stand my ground and make a productive contribution during meetings, or whether I would be bulldozed over by the men.
I know that many women will relate to this. Despite the advances that women have made in the last half-century, positions of power in society are still overwhelmingly dominated by men. Women continue to face more challenges than men in being seen, heard, respected, and leaving their impact on the world.
Surround Yourself With Supportive And Respectful Men
The biggest thing that I am grateful for is that the men I work with are extremely supportive and respectful of women. They actively make space for my opinions and views. When I speak and if the men happen to be having a rowdy conversation, the Chairperson will sometimes ask the other members to shush and listen. And they always do, once they realize I have started to speak.
The lesson: Choose to surround yourself with men who will respect and honor your voice. Once you have the experience of being honored and respected, you will be able to recognize other men who will treat you with honor and respect, and you will have it in your vibration to be able to attract them as partners, colleagues, and friends.
Own Your Own Value And Authority
One of the first thoughts I had when I met the rest of the Board was literally, “Oh my gosh, they are much older and way more qualified than me!” And the underlying fear, “Do I really have anything valuable to contribute?”
This fear soon proved unfounded, as I realized that each member was contributing in his (and her) unique way. I might have a lot to say about strategy, whereas someone else would be an expert on HR, and another person might share a powerful personal experience that shifts the meeting’s perspective on an important question. We would take turns to chime in at different points during the discussion, and there was always value in what everyone said.
The lesson: You are the authority of your own experience, skills and gifts. Own your authority and contribute what you have in good faith, whether it’s a technical expertise, a positive energy, or even a personal experience that could be useful for others.
As two people are never alike, there is always something you will have that other people do not, and vice versa, even if everyone else ‘appears’ to be bigger, better, smarter, etc. Know and value yourself, and people will want you for sure on their team.
Include Yourself In The Group
A friend of mine once asked me, “Do you feel excluded by the rest of the board when they start speaking in Malay in front of you”?
I pondered for a while then eventually answered, “Not really. As long as I sense positive vibes, I do not feel excluded even if they are speaking in Malay.”
Upon further reflection, I realized another reason why I feel included is that I make an effort to show up and include myself in the group. If the men are speaking in Malay and I don’t get it, I ask what it is about, and one person will usually take the time to explain it to me. Once I did this often enough, the men started being more sensitive and someone would usually take the initiative to translate for me if the discussion lapsed into Malay.
Lesson: Inclusion can be as much an internal state of mind as an external invitation to be part of a group. One can show up at a meeting and feel out of place even if the rest of the group is warm and inviting. Do not exclude yourself from even before others exclude you! Start showing up, including yourself, ask to be included, and others will eventually include you, even in a male-dominated group.
Rebalancing The Energies
We are all part of a global rebalancing of masculine-feminine energies on Earth. As you journey on this human experience as a woman, you will encounter more and more situations where you are called to step into your full voice, power and impact. Play with the tips above, cherish your experiences, and here’s to celebrating your innately powerful feminine Self!