Last year my friend and mentor told me to go for a job she thought I’d be good at.
Me ‘I don’t think I have the right skills for it‘
Her ‘Laura, don’t be a woman about it‘
I was HIGHLY offended.
I made an immediate apology to all women in my head.
I’m not offended to be a woman – about that, or anything else.
But that phrase was borne of current statistics that tell us men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, whereas women only apply if they meet 100% of them.
We’re always looking at what we think we can’t do instead of what we can.
So here are some words of wisdom from female leaders to tell you that you can and you should:
Nalini Paul – Director of Restless Development India on… OWNING IT
“As women, we are taught very early in our lives not to overstep boundaries. We are designated a space – at home, at work, at tables, at temples…… my advice to other women is don’t EVER hold yourself back. Believe that every space is your space, it is your responsibility to claim it, own and change it for the better. Go forth with a sense of responsibility and pride!”
Suzi Harris – Director of Restless Development Tanzania on… SELF-BELIEF
“Many women from the continent of Africa, like myself, are taught to self-hate. Such socially constructed ideologies create a self-fulfilling prophecy that damages the minds of young women. I say to all young women who have faced adversity to not listen, believe in what you think, and surround yourself with people who nurture the greatest of yourself.”
Beth Benedict – Investments Partner at Comic Relief UK on… ENCOURAGEMENT
“If you believe someone can do something, tell them and encourage them to go for it. Especially if they are a young woman. I have met too many super-talented, capable young women that don’t believe, or have the confidence to pursue what they’re capable of.”
Kaajal Pradhan – Director of Restless Development Nepal on… EMPATHY
“As we progress in life, we tend to lose our sense of empathy and the fact that we were young once. Very easily we say, ‘You are young, it’s too early to know about it’, ‘ you don’t have experience and therefore you are not right for this position’ etc. I was given a chance when I was young, some people believed in me; and because of that, I am where I am.”
Victoria Ibiwoye – Founder & Director of OneAfricanChild Nigeria on… GOALS
“All our lives, the right doors may have opened up to us, but sitting at the table, that’s something we have to earn. As young female leaders, we have a lot of work to do. In our aim to be successful, we cannot always rely on luck, we must be intentional about our goals.”
Catherine Rodgers – Director of Restless Development Uganda on… LISTENING
“With any social change or social justice, the voices and leadership of the people affected by the issue should be heard first and loudest. It must be based on the lived realities of people and not on assumptions of what people think the issues are. The first step towards [making this a reality] is to listen! That’s it – really and truly listen, from here it will be easier to let go of your power and ensure that it is shared equally with everyone in your movement or organization.”
Inota Cheta – Co- Founder and Director of She Entrepreneur Zambia on… ATTITUDE
“Sometimes simply being female adds ten times more reasons why ‘you shouldn’t.’ To succeed, turn off the ‘No You Can’t’ noise and wear the ‘Yes I Can Attitude’. Speak to women to have been down that road and have succeeded and turn your close friends into accountability agents.”
Katie Rowberry, Strategic Partnerships Director at Restless Development on… SHARED STRENGTH
“Seek help from other women. We’re always told to ‘be confident / grab the opportunity!’ which is true. But we’re also pre-conditioned for a million different reasons not to feel that confidence. So don’t worry if you don’t feel world conquering every day. Share how you feel and draw strength from the women around you – friends, colleagues, sisters, mums and mentors.”
Lana Razafimanantsoa – Founder & Director of Gasy Youth Up Madagascar on… THE JOURNEY
“Leadership is not a destiny to be reached as it is fully part of a life learning journey. Most importantly what matters is that your leadership impact inspires, influences and catalyses change rather than focusing on rank, position and title. I learnt from my own experiences, that despite gendered cultural restrictions my dreams and vision as a young woman are valid.”
Rosanne Palmer-White, Director of Restless Development UK on… VOICE
“If you’re like me, then every time you go to make a big decision or speak out there’s a moment when that little voice in the back of your mind pipes up. It reminds you of all the reasons not to put yourself forward, and before you know it, you’re backing down or staying silent. My advice is this: no-one else can hear that voice. So take a deep breath and have a go. You won’t always get everything right but you’ll build your own faith in yourself, your judgement and your ability.”
Part 1 of 2 part blog on Women in Leadership.
Part 2 (Women in Leadership: A Q&A) coming soon!
Laura Beresford is the Youth Networks Coordinator at Restless Development, based in our London office.