Lately I have had the pleasure of joining a group of intelligent, capable, hard-working, beautiful, thoughtful women on a confidence course. They work around the world and in all kinds of organisations. I don’t know, but I can imagine, they earn vastly different salaries and I know they are of different ages, stages, backgrounds and nationalities. And listening to this group of women has made me angry. So angry. The kind of angry that sparks hot tears and sets your stomach spinning. Not because they were saying anything awful, they were speaking truthfully. But because they were reflecting the deepest, darkest thoughts I have had, and my female friends and relatives probably have too. They were sharing how a lack of confidence was holding them back in aspects of their life. It is debilitating. It is destructive. It is devastating.
And here’s the thing that really drives me crazy – this lack of power is completely embedded across institutions in society to keep women feeling like this. How dare our childhoods do this to us? How dare society malign us? How dare we allow our gifts to be hidden away while mediocracy reigns? We are missing out on talented leadership, original thought and creative innovation that can solve the types of challenges that are really puzzling us in the world and we are owed the voices of these women, as much as women are due to be heard.
So, I am angry, but I am taking action. I am halfway through Lauren Currie’s Upfront course and it has my rapt attention. Lauren talks about finding a positive and joyful view of issues as anger disengages audiences. It makes a lot of sense. Especially when I think of the speakers I enjoy the most – they are charismatic and they give me hope. Thankfully, finding positives in a situation, focusing on things I can control and practicing gratitude for life’s gifts are things I have been working on for most of my adult life. I can find hope in many places, but I have been needing the final piece to take action and speak up – the audacity.
So many ideas I have about improving things have taken root and are being nurtured. I am finding the tools that will help me lend my voice and power to things I care about – my career, yes, but also my other interests – writing, representation, advocacy, agency and inequalities.
How can I do this?
Practice every single day and empower others too. By not apologising, justifying, staying quiet, giving up recognition, accepting first offered salaries, making the tea because you’re the only woman in the room. By actively sharing achievements, showing success, sharing our achievements, applying for promotions and demonstrating our power.
As the first online Upfront cohort it feels like we are part of a movement that could genuinely change lives – for the women on the course and the people that benefit from their confident contributions. I am going to overcome my own personal challenges around confidence, I am going to share stories and I am going to elevate others too. Because if not you, then who? And if not now, then when? I do this for all the women who have gone before far too quietly, my peers who do not recognise or share their gifts to the world and the girls to come – the quiet, thoughtful girls holding the cures to the worst of the world’s ills in their imaginations until someone tells them to stop showing off.