As a lone, female arboriculturalist beating her way through the undergrowth of the working world, sometimes literally, I take great interest in all that’s said, written and explored on the subject of workplace gender politics and inequality.
A baffling but persistent lack of confidence exhibited by many working women is blamed for a lot of things – the gender pay gap, scarcity of women in leadership roles, a poor showing of females in STEM industries, low numbers starting their own businesses. It’s a very long list once you start to research, this is just a surface scratch.
Now, I’ve worked almost exclusively with men for over 23 years. Have to say though, if I’m going to sum up my experience in relation to the confidence issue, I’m going to have to stick to what I know about women. 23 years or no 23 years, for me men still present as an unfathomable puzzle. Perhaps they always will.
So, sisters, how do we know when we’ve encountered one of our number who does not posess an appropriate level of confidence? Well, I would say not getting on with other women at work is one symptom. This communicates itself in a myriad of different ways but I had occasion to work with someone who, rather than discuss anything with me, liked to turn on her heel while I was talking and flounce away. Holy moly.
Then there’s the fear of speaking up, often combined with no fear whatsoever of bitching at length in the background. Awful. Very, very funny, but also awful.
Moodiness, and lack of emotional balance…you know, it’s not always hormonal? Good grief – what if it never is? Over-reaction and not quite managing an appropriate emotional response can very easily be a symptom of shaky confidence in a woman. I know, I’m doing a hands-up here! And what about over-compensation? OC for the anxiety felt when some blatant self-promotion is called for and can’t be summoned? I have, unfortunately, come across members of the sisterhood who’ve mastered the unremarkable art of throwing their weight around for no productive purpose. Makes me want to sigh deeply and seek out the company of somebody with testicles who can call a spade a f****** spade and be done with it. That in fact is what I usually do.
Cracking on, because my chicken curry’s waiting, I’m going to give you my definition of confidence. I can do this, because this is my blog. You can disagree with me though – I think that’s what the space at the bottom’s for.
Confidence is a deep belief in your intrinsic worth just as you are.
It’s the calm of not having to put on a face because you know you can rely on yourself (your real, right down at the core self) to respond to any set of circumstances with honesty, equilibrium and integrity.
It’s a level of self-respect deep enough not to require approval from people who would manipulate any lack of it in order to control you.
It’s the ability to be wrong for the right reasons and therefore not fear failure. This also makes it possible to better encounter risk.
It’s the ability to be comfortable taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 28th place because you know there’s nothing at your core that puts you there, and you aren’t diminished by being overlooked, rejected, insulted, knocked-back or misunderstood.
I do have some anxiety about younger women in this regard, I can’t help it. My very imperfect acquaintance with social media has caused me to fear that young women may be in danger of getting this stuff terribly wrong. Am I going too far if I’m worrying about a lost generation of female potential?
My impression is that, in terms of gender equality, not as much has changed as it really should’ve done in the vast eons of time that have gone by since I was a young woman . And I know that women’s advance into the workplace, as well as their ascent up the ladder to influence, has stalled over the last 2 decades.
Well here’s something I suggest we should stop routinely pushing at girls – pseudo ’empowerment’ via exposure to female role models hyping their sexuality to the max. It is I believe, a terrible affront to all that is precious and vital in womanhood. Just to be clear, being ‘sexy’ is nowhere near the same as having power, no matter how far you push it. No matter how many butt-cheek enlargements you get, or how much money you spend on bling, real female power resides on the inside and is suppressed and diluted in a world full of false female gods. It’s entirely possible young women are now more body-conscious, more diminished in their fight, less inclined to take themselves and their minds as seriously as they should, than they’ve ever been.
I’m afraid that, over the next 2 decades, this could make real, solid, life-enhancing female confidence as rare as the White Rhino. 🙁