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Corporate Women are a special breed

You know what we don’t often hear? How badass corporate women are.

For days, I’ve been struggling to articulate my thoughts on this topic because I was nervous to come across as too negative or arrogant. I wanted to share an uplifting and empowering message for international women's day but couldn’t do so without highlighting the different struggles that women can often face in the corporate world... so I’d delete every sentence that I’d draft because it felt like I was being too critical.

The irony of somewhat censoring myself with the same narrative that is used to disempower women is not lost on me.

But let’s put that aside for now and get back to the topic: corporate woman are badasses.

Too often, women working in corporate jobs are faced with a hundred different instances of unconscious bias, inappropriate comments and sometimes blatantly discriminatory performance feedback. These behaviours are oftentimes ingrained in the organisational culture, which makes it even harder to speak up against.

“You should smile more in meetings”

“You got promoted because he likes you”

“What you said is true but it sounds too arrogant when you say it”

“You’re smart and good at your job, but other people aren’t ready to accept that”

“You need to develop more empathetic and softer communication skills to become a good leader”

Repeatedly hearing such comments can slowly chip away at your mental health and self-worth. For lack of a better word, it can be a total mindf*ck.

In too many instances, being an ambitious woman is a balancing act between what you’re professionally capable to deliver versus how you’re perceived and treated as a woman. Sometimes, it’s as “obvious” as unequal pay. And sometimes, it’s a lot more subtle and nuanced, like a man praised for being outspoken while a woman is criticised for sounding self-righteous for the exact same comments and tonality.

It’s a delicate dance between proving your business acumen while avoiding the pitfalls of the likability bias that women often face.

But the ending doesn’t have to be bad. Rather than letting this turn into a villain origin story, I’d like to point out the invaluable skills that women can develop as a result of persevering through this adversity. Admirable amounts of resilience, empathy, humility, introspection and acute communication skills are some of the unexpected gifts that this difficulty can bring.

And that makes Corporate Women a special kind of breed, because they’ve had to develop a cut-throat resilience to carry-on in the corporate world, in spite of the ongoing sexist bullshit they often witness or experience first-hand.

Should women bear the burden of corporate cultures that are complicit in sexist bias? Absolutely not.

But do they rise up to become even more capable and valuable individuals, as a result of this? In many cases, they absolutely do.

So until corporate cultures (generally speaking) catch up with the modern world, we need to applaud our badass Corporate Women colleagues a lot more.

We need to recognise the sheer grit that they’ve likely built and the resulting skills that they’ve had to develop in order to succeed. These skills are more likely to make better leaders, managers and co-workers, therefore creating even more value to organisations.

With the hope that all workplaces become more encouraging and empowering towards everyone, let’s all celebrate Corporate Women and learn from them.


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