In today’s society, women are suffering. Our young women are suffering. My granddaughters are suffering. Not because they are incompetent or weak, but because society tells them day-in and day-out that they are NOT good enough.
These conflicting messages become apparent as early as pre-teen years because our daughters look around and become very aware that males have privileges that they do not, and they realize they live in a male centered world. So, it’s no surprise girls become great at becoming something they are not. Change is needed.
My advocacy of women came about because of deep and sustained research of leadership effectiveness that the Gap company asked me to do. What I discovered at Gap was that women have distinctive advantages in leading teams and organizations that rely on collaboration. Women are especially able to create and implement innovation that people and their customers valued, and women especially excel in conditions of ambiguity and change.
My subsequent research took me deep into the field of neuropsychology. This is a new field that studies the interactive effects of our brain biology and social environment. This led me to understand how negative impact of systemic bias severely limits the lack of confidence that most women battle when fulfilling their potential in the workplace. It also inhibits women’s happiness and life satisfaction.
Put simply, it’s a man’s world. It has been for thousands of years. And the world we currently have is about as good as male brains can make it. It doesn’t appear to be good enough.
Due to the explosion of world population from 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion people the last 60 years, and an unprecedented advancement of technology, everything in our world has become more intensely interconnected. It turns out, the holistic neuro networks of female brains are better designed to deal with this complexity than the linear brains of most males. However, unless women’s voices and thinking versatility is elevated to the highest levels of our institutions, the short term, binary, blue brain thinking of testosterone thinking will continue to dominate.
We need to train our daughters to overcome the female self-doubt that is driven by the bias in our world culture. We need to obliterate the limits of women’s contributions that will lead to better business, better government and a better world.
In my women’s leadership training I summarize the mindset of successful high functioning women leaders. It is based on years of leadership science that examines the results of 360° leadership surveys and the business results achieved by high impact women leaders. It is also very relevant in teaching and raising young girls.
The Confident Mindset
The foundation is confidence. Confidence arises when you believe that the result of your best efforts will be successful. When you don’t have that experience because others, who are less capable, are consistently given more opportunities and advantages than you, it is natural for your confidence to erode. Too often, women settle for jobs which are designed to help other people achieve their goals. But for our world to work for everyone young girls and women need to pursue their goals.
The confident mindset is built on three principles:
1.Be BRIGHT: Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research ( insert amazon link book link) confirms that if you have an IQ of 115, you can learn anything. You can become a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. You can certainly become the President of United States. This idea is new for women. In 1960, nearly all major universities would not except women into their engineering programs. 1960! Most states would not license women to become architects until the 1950s because architecture was considered too technical a field for women to master. Unfortunately, that mindset lingers. We have to actively build a confidence of our girls that they are intellectually, socially, and emotionally gifted to learn whatever they need to learn to make the greatest contribution they can make in whatever field they choose. Teach your daughters that they can learn anything.
2.Be BRAVE. Personal bravery is a willingness to try things at the outer edge of your competence. When you are brave enough to push yourself out of your comfort zone your learning and development expands. One of the greatest abilities of women is their mental and social agility which allows them to move beyond mistakes and shortcomings to endlessly become better and better. Recent research from McKinsey and Company reveals that women continue to seek and grow from feedback after age 40. The research found that as men age they tend to respond to negative feedback defensively. They become more self justifying. For women, the greatest deterrent to bravery is perfectionism. Teach your daughters that a well lived life is a life of progress not perfection.
3. Be TRUE. In the Facebook era, we swim in an ocean of social comparison. But high functioning people do not define themselves by comparing their looks, their achievements or their stuff to anyone else’s. To be true means that you consistently invest the inner energy necessary to understand your unique motivated talents. These are the abilities that you love to use and develop. These are talents that can be harnessed in the service of what intrinsically rewards you. When your highest motives and your greatest talents are combined you’re on the path to fulfillment.
You are not your body.
You are not your achievements.
You are not your grades.
You are not your friends.
You are not your emotions.
You are not your fears.
You are not any of these things because all of these things change. You are something much deeper. You have an intrinsic, essential self that is gently seeking to be fully realized. You’re not seeking self-fulfillment as much as soul fulfillment. This is not an airy- fairy, quacky notion. It is the conclusion of the collective wisdom of thousands of years of philosophers and spiritual leaders worldwide. And after three decades of helping people fulfill their inner sense of purpose as well as their professional and personal goals, it is also my strongest conviction. Teach your daughters not to be defined by anyone else, and to seek soul fulfillment.
These are the things to teach your daughters and the young girls in our communities. One of the greatest benefits in teaching them these three principles is that you will more fully become the truth that you teach. For it is in our examples that the most powerful teachers emerge, always.