It is that month when celebrating women is the norm. Being a proponent of women empowerment, I have always found the idea of focusing one day in a year on women as tokenism. But it does work if the plans and ideas around women are committed throughout the year, with sustained continuous actions around equality and the drive to make a difference. And this commitment needs to come from women themselves not just men.
Manya Singh’s story from being a rickshaw driver’s daughter to Miss India Runner-Up has inspired all of us on her resilience and fortitude. She still made it despite not having the privilege of school education, wearing hand-me-down clothes, running away from home at 14, earning a degree by washing dishes in the evening, and working in a call center by night. She also challenged privilege around an industry celebrating ‘Beauty’ by giving dreams to a part of society who now believe ‘they too can’. These are the stories that need to be celebrated throughout the year.
Closer to my work life, I have been inspired by women who take responsibility for success in their own hands. We run one of the largest cross-industry leadership development programs for emerging women leaders with elements of mentoring, coaching, and learning called I-L.E.A.P. It was heartening to see this year more women leaders taking upon themselves to change the status quo. They invested in their time, energy, and money in thinking far around the longevity of their careers. They were willing to challenge their assumptions, strengths, skills, and attitude.
Listen to Priya Rajesh who truly has embodied the 2021 women’s day theme #choosetochallenge.
Why is that these role models inspire us? How does this help us in believing in our own core? The answer is deeper than transient. Role models i) showcase strength and connectedness to an issue or situation ii) demonstrate mindsets and behavior that got them success iii) help us live the aspiration that might have been suppressed deep down. But again, we need to tread with caution by remembering ‘degrees of difference’ before we give our views on a role model to others. We need a diversity of role models, with different styles, stories, personalities, and perspectives. Because let’s face it, not all women make it to the top and not all women aspire to. But we still can get inspired by those role models who bring meaning to our needs and wants.
This in turn will require more women to step up and be the role models they wish they had. For once they need to shed the “imposter syndrome’ on ‘Am I good enough?’ They need to talk about their success rather than discounting it. They need to accept ambition rather than hiding behind the veil of family and their needs. They need to be brutally honest with their feelings and take ownership of their actions.
So, take that leap of faith and
- say yes to that course that would help you grow
- say yes to being a mentor to someone
- say yes to creating a video about your views on social media
- say yes to that solo trip or a trip with friends that you were delaying
- say yes to creating a support network like ‘Lean in’ which will help you help others
- say yes to ‘YOUR POTENTIAL’
Because by saying ‘Yes’ you will inspire other women that you might not have imagined. Only then will you see the magic unfurl.