Feature: How Successful Women Can Lead By Example
We’ve heard the rhetoric: women want it all. We all both deserve and want some combination of elements from the entire spectrum that starts with the traditional (sometimes considered limiting) homemaker role to the super-successful CEO.
Unfortunately, when this theory of “having it all” is applied to a single individual, society still has a hard time swallowing what that one woman strives for. Case in point: It will always baffle me that brilliant, successful men have told me that I’m too independent. Or that my friends question why I’m still single when they work as hard as I do. Worse still, this repeated undermining of women’s choices leaks into the minds of both genders — and into personal relationships.
So what can we do? First, be part of normalizing success. I work hard, and my achievements show. I don’t often make a big deal of it. I also make sure that I’m not perpetuating inequality by treating the successes of men (or other women) differently than my own. It may seem like a no-brainer, but I treat the people in my life equally.
Essentially: live by example.
The idea that a successful woman is a rare breed, worthy of awe or pity, isn’t helping us build an equality-minded, healthy world. A successful woman who chooses not to have children or not to marry likely isn’t horrifically broken inside — and neither is a woman who chooses to do both in lieu of work.
If you are a successful woman (in any field, whether you’re a superstar mom or a CEO), here are some ideas for how you can pay it forward and help other women succeed too:
Know what YOU want. It’s much easier to work toward goals if they’re specific, well thought out, and in alignment with our values. That said, please never forget that it’s okay to change your mind. People might resist your shifts in life goals, but you’re in charge of your life. Just keep moving.
Make time for yourself and your loved ones. I’ve always had a tough time balancing personal and professional life. I don’t believe there is balance, but I believe you make the time for what you want in life and if you want a relationship or kids, you need to make the time for them. Some of my relationships have suffered because I was at work too long. It may help to set a date night each week and make sure to tune in and stay turned off from work.
Don’t waste your energy trying to convince others your path is right. You are who you are. You’re on your own path here, and I’d like to invite you to take a moment to look at how far you’ve come. It’s not your job to convince others that it’s okay that you might not want children or why you’re single. As they say, just keep calm and carry on
Choose people who are in alignment with your goals. It’s worth the reminder that there are plenty of people out there who will encourage you, who will have lasting interest in your goals and successes, and who want to be there to help you through failures. There is simply no good reason to date anyone who doesn’t align with your dreams. You deserve top-rate (yes, you.)
Beware hypocrisy and respect your fellow women. An acquaintance of mine (also a successful woman who doesn’t want children) and I were having lunch just the other day, and she kept asking me about my dating life — i.e., why I’m still single. It’s too easy to perpetuate the normative thinking that there must be something wrong with an apparently successful, beautiful woman who is still single. If you want people to stop focusing on your dating life and agenda, then make sure you are not asking those questions. At the same time, don’t treat other women (like stay-at-home moms) differently because you don’t see life from their perspective.
Be a role model. Don’t be afraid to show others that it’s okay to walk off the beaten path. There’s nothing wrong with deviating from the norm. Share your experience, your lessons, through writing or speaking out. Help others, especially youth, learn that there are women out there that put their careers first — and that is completely okay.