Are we mistaking ‘Leaning in’ for ‘Meaning in’ ?

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I lap up all sorts of literature about women and working, can’t get enough of the stuff. Drives Ben bonkers, he thinks I’m obsessed, mainly because when I refuse to take the bins out he says, ‘you can’t be all women’s libbers and then refuse to take the bins out’. To which I reply, ‘but how I will enjoy my women’s hour podcast if I smell like bin juice?’.

I think when I am old and grey*, I will look back at this time and think I was part of something. Part of some kind of women’s movement in the business world. Perhaps it’s because I absorb myself in it so much that I’m a bit warped, but it does feel like an exciting time to be a woman. There are strong role models, great debate and whilst not everything is perfect (hello wage gap, yep we still see you), it does feel like there’s momentum. There’s the pram-starters, the women who start post-baby businesses, shared maternity/paternity leave, new thinking around part time and flexi hours and I think stay-at-home mums too have more deserved respect than previously…stuff is happening, there is choice, and yes its been slow, I know, but it is happening.

*(Ah who I am kidding…I will NEVER be grey. Peroxide till I die baby!)

Usually when I read articles or books on this subject, or watch Ted Talks endlessly on loop until I’m so inspired I can’t breathe, I often find myself doing little mini fist-pumps, high-fiving myself and really gee-ing myself up, (to be honest it’s not actually recommended to do this before bed…can be quite exhausting). My favourite female voices, Sandberg, Moran, Agrawal, Amoruso are like a personal cheering squad, I know none of them and yet I feel like I could totally just ‘call for them’ (remember doing that, ahhh, childhood…), share a cup of tea and a packet of party rings. Hmmm, maybe not Sheryl, she doesnt seem like a party ring kind of gal, I would defo take shortbread for her, yeah, she’d love a proper Scottish shortbread. But recently I’ve read a few things that have just made go, well…. ‘meh’.

I shall explain…

The other week I read an article in Grazia, (yep I’m going highbrow here people), written by a lady who was talking about her big digital marketing career. The essence of the piece was all about how worrying about ‘being liked’ held women back in their careers, and how she’d stopped caring about ‘being liked’ and that had helped her to the top.

Cue: Meh. 

My initial response was, “wow your strategy is impressively effective, I haven’t even finished your article and I already don’t like you, let alone having to meet you or heaven forbid work with you!”

I kind of get her angle..a bit. She, (and others out there), assume that women’s tendency to be more ‘people pleasing’ means they make the wrong decisions, or they aren’t able to ‘get the job done’, as effectively as perhaps a man might. That they simply don’t do, what needs to be done to get to where they need to go, and therefore it takes them longer or they never get there.

Meh. 

You see, I have a problem with theories like these.

They totally miss the point.

It doesn’t really matter if your man or a woman, there are simple humanistic and social skills that apply to everyday life that absoutley should be transferred into the workplace. Outside of work, if you never cared if anyone liked you, you would have no friends, possibly no partner, no hobbies, offend people everywhere you went and mostly likely be a bit of a twat. So why would that ever be ok when applied to the work environment, a place where many of us spend huge chunks of our time, sometimes even more than we do at home? 

Opinions like these bother me because they often focus on what is unique and special about women – a more empathetic, nurturing and socially astute set of weaponry, and strip it all away like these skills are embarrassing odours, which if sniffed out, will deem you booted out of the boardroom forever. But it is these things that can help provide a more balanced set of skills and approaches in a workplace, and complement some of the great and unique things men have going for them.

In fact, if I glance back at good things that have happened to me in my career, opportunities I’ve had, people who’ve helped me, relationships I’ve built, teams I’ve grown, I’m pretty sure ‘being liked’ has been a fundamental part of most of it. Certainly not all of it, but it’s only ever done me favours as opposed to ‘held me back’.

(How awkward will it be if all my colleagues and associates who read this are like: erm, yeah so did you see that blog? Hmmmm so when do we tell her we don’t actually like her?’)…

I think what is being confused here is being comfortable with making decisions that mean you won’t always be liked, versus just being a machine who doesn’t care about what anyone thinks, ever. 

Making difficult decisions is at the heart of any leadership position, you have to make business smart choices and a lot of the time they won’t be crowd pleasers. But I do believe it is still possible to do all this and STILL be liked. Honestly! By being transparent, respecting people’s feelings, having tact, being emotionally intelligent and so forth, you can make a tonne of unpopular decisions and people will still respect and, well yeah, they’ll still like you.

Being liked is also a broad term, you can be liked for lots different reasons, its not about people wanting to be your BFF, people can like you because your fair or because your the best at what you do, or because your smart or because you give good advice. And therefore I think anyone who doesn’t seek to be any of those things, things that are fundamentally a part of the process of ‘being liked’, but instead sets out to not give crap about being considered as ANY of those sorts of things, is, well, a bit a plonker in my humble opinion. 

Sorry love.

And I care about this stuff because as per my intro, I do hope I am part of something, I want to set a good example and pave the way for Indy to do whatever she wants (Phoenix will be fine too, I’m sure, he’s learnt how to burp his name already, he seems to progressing well on all fronts), so that when/if she has her own children, she can have choices, ideas, follow dreams and make it happen. I would hate to think that any kind of progress that has been made up to this point is now starting to turn sour through views like these coming direct from us, the women themselves! Iwould hate to see a generation of women simply switching off what are essentially the foundations of just being a nice, normal person to ‘get ahead’.

So yeah, it’s ok to want to be liked. You can still be liked and have a career, it’s not a choice you have make and it’s a ridiculous concept to even consider it is. Go be liked and like back people, what’s the worst thst happen in doing that? 

Emma x

If you happen to ‘like’ this post you can also go ahead and ‘like’ it on Facebook too and join the mission….because hey, its cool to be liked πŸ™‚

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mission-to-Motherhood/137837472905074?ref=hl

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2 thoughts on “Are we mistaking ‘Leaning in’ for ‘Meaning in’ ?

  1. Mel says:

    Well said – agree agree : ))

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