What I learnt working for Women
My career has been paved with women relationships, working almost exclusively for women bosses, mentoring or managing girls, collaborating in teams of ladies. And where I have had many amazing, life-changing male colleagues as well; I have grown a particular fondness for working with women. With them leading me and with them beside me, I have learnt some invaluable lessons. Here are some of them.
#1 they will demand more of you
5 female bosses (who I have had the privilege to work for, often with pride and sometimes with tears) and to 2 male bosses later, I have found that women are more demanding towards other women. Maybe partly because they had it tougher, because they had to prove themselves more, they had to lean-in and push through to exist and belong or maybe because they expect more drive and more hunger from fellow women. Regardless of the motive, women bosses will demand a higher level of excellence and accuracy. And because they intrinsically hold themselves to high standards they ultimately hold others accountable to unrelenting standards. But what I have also learnt, is that women aren’t only tough because they somehow felt they had to compensate for something. They are tough because they care more, because they have greater hopes for you, and won’t tolerate anything less than what they accomplished, anything less than fulfilling your potential.
#2 their Trust takes longer
On the back of this first lesson, I have also picked up that trust amongst women at work takes longer to establish. To establish deeply. Sandberg explains this concept in her book Lean In, and I have experienced it first hand. There is still an element of competition amongst women in the work force. Convinced that the spots at the top will be sparse, they hold off from trusting and empowering one another, they test the waters, they assess characters and ultimately go on forming bonds of collaboration stronger than ever.
#3 They lead with strong values
Of course I have experienced positive and negative scenarios, but generally I have felt that my women bosses led by example with stronger, more human values and with the distinct endearing grace that commands respect and dedication. I wouldn’t necessarily say that women are softer or more understanding, nor do I imply than men wouldn't be equally kind in nature. What I mean rather, is that where women have been girls, become women, wives and mothers, hustlers, dreamers or conquerors, they have gathered incredible depth of experiences and social intelligence. They know who they are and who they aspire to become. They are incredibly self-reflective, and often strongly self-critical which leads them to unlock new realms of self-awareness. Women at the top are the ultimate all-rounders.
#4 They are incredibly creative
Creative in solution making, creative in finding alternatives to issues, creative in redefining themselves and pushing the limits, women are abundantly innovative. They know how to apply this creativity in projects' execution and in the way they define their path to success. They are crafty in networking, in maintaining alliances and in picking their battles.
#5 They provide the best practical advices
Starting off my career with women was the best start one could wish for. Honest, sometimes brutally so, they have led me through the intellectual challenges and guided me through the unspoken rules of office life. They were the ones to tell me that I should speak up when I was adding value and was properly prepared to take questions. Equally they taught me when to sit in, take notes and listen in the presence of upper management instead of making the Evodie's show. They were the ones who taught me that my resting bitchy face had to go, and held me accountable for changing it. They taught me that recap emails were paramount to keep stakeholders on board and informed, and that they were a great way protect myself from negative political moves. Women taught me how to take people with me, how to charm and when to be intransigent. They were the ones who initiated me into the concept of stakeholders circles and alliances. When to invest, and when not to. They were the ones who taught me to show up before the boss, to anticipate his/her requests and deliver beyond expectations. They taught me that competence was essential, that mastering my subject matter and becoming the focus point for my projects was my gateway to promotion. They taught me patience, resilience and hunger. They taught me to trust my gut, and to trust no one.
I am dying to know your thoughts on this subject! If you too have worked for women, do you related to my experience? Keen to hear the good and the bad!