I’ve always had mixed feelings about flying the flag for female empowerment, and today seems as good a time as any, on International Women’s Day, to try to explain my ambivalence. I have some trepidation about this, as I have no idea what reaction I’ll get, but here goes.
“It’s a shame if women feel they are underestimated or overshadowed at work. It’s even more of a shame if they keep quiet about it today of all days”.
On the one hand, I feel the best way to promote diversity as the norm, is to just assume I am an equal, and live my life as a parent and a business person rather than focus on my struggles as mother and a businesswoman.
My person-centred approach
My business is based on business improvement, which includes systems, data, project management and Lean thinking. However, I recognise above all else that the key thing holding organisations back from Transformation and Change is people’s fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear to present, to lead, to challenge, to collaborate and to support each other.
I facilitate group coaching to overcome such fears. I use visual tools, empathy and co-facilitation techniques for this exact reason. To generate an open and honest environment where it’s safe to share our stories and acknowledge our fears. And then to introduce people to simple science, technical skills and tools to harness their new-found commitment and confidence to change.
To summarise, I would say I take a blended approach to business improvement that recognises and harnesses diverse skills and attributes in the workplace. My objectives are to improve people’s health and wellbeing through enhancing their relationships and productivity at work.
This is how I design my work and it invariably brings the results and feedback that demonstrate its value.
All I’ve ever wanted to do in my work is aspire to how my parents supported their community. My dad was an old-school general practitioner, and my mum was a nurse. I have thousands of tales I could tell about how they helped people, and how that became part of my fabric over time. For example, I remember my dad pulling on his suit trousers and a roll top jumper to cover his stripey pyjamas when called out time after time on night calls.
So when I do what I do, I select what I feel will work best to support people in a typical workplace or a community – not for an all-female or an all-male audience. I’ve spent years as a behaviourist, and as a change agent developing my skills and my approach to one that brings out the best in real work environments. A skillset that really harnesses the power of diversity and acknowledges the differences that make us work well together.
Seeds of doubt
Despite the strength of my convictions, based on my context and deeply-rooted values, I sometimes stop and think about my approach. I do occasionally wonder whether my balanced and proven contribution as a business coach is sometimes under-rated because I am a woman? My world of Lean is often the domain of my male counterparts, and I sometimes wonder whether my skills and approach are overlooked by both men and women for being either too soft (pink? fluffy?), or too techy (nerdy? boffinesque?). I do have evidence from external assessors that this bias exists even where I hadn’t realised it.
However I mostly use my doubts to quietly redouble my efforts, I am not one to protest about the inequalities of being a woman.
Does it matter?
In conclusion, I’m not sure whether my approach is due to me being a woman – or just a person. And in an ideal world it shouldn’t matter at all. If I can do some good, and leave some legacy of whatever it is I do, I’ll take that.
I’d love to hear your views. Get in touch below, via firstname.lastname@example.org, or 07824660120.