In the last century, women have made stunning strides in the fight for equality. There have been so many firsts—so many that trying to list them all is impossible.
As I thought about Women’s History Month this year, it occurred to me that, as far as we’ve come, we have far to go. How is it that we’re well into the 21st century and still in a position where there are firsts to achieve? Even as we celebrate the firsts for women, we can’t stop moving forward to a day when our accomplishments aren’t defined by our gender.
But that is not to diminish the accomplishments. All the firsts, each and every one of them, represent impactful changes to the way women live in 2022. For example, for every 100 women who graduate college today, only 74 men do. Actually, the college gender gap officially closed in 1980.
And many of us are using that education to forge our own paths in the professional world. Nearly 58% of women have jobs outside of the home. Compare that to the 33% who worked outside of the home in 1950, and you can see just how far we’ve come.
But despite these incredible gains, devastating deficiencies remain. Women still make $0.84 for every dollar earned by a male counterpart. When you consider women of color, that gap worsens. In 2019, the American Association of University Women released their research showing that the average Black woman is paid 63% of what a non-Hispanic white man is paid. That’s seven additional months of work. When you look at leadership, women hold just 5% of the CEO positions in the world.
In the face of these challenges, there's a small but mighty group of women who’ve bucked these trends. They’ve shed the stereotypes and embraced a narrative that propelled them to the highest levels of business. They’ve achieved their own firsts. And their powerful stories demonstrate the value of perseverance, using your voice, and manifesting your own narrative.
And even though they’ve achieved success at the highest level, I can promise you that getting there was not without challenges. I think it’s safe to say that these women endured their fair share of hardship along the way.
The difficulties they faced aren’t unique. They are threads in the tapestry of every woman’s professional life and are ties that bind all women together.
Most notably, perhaps, are questions about their story. How long will it take you to break even? How predictable is your future cash flow? Will you go back to work after having a baby? What will you do if you fail?
Meanwhile, men are asked: How will you monetize this? What milestones are you targeting this year? What will be your next step if you succeed here?
Harvard Business Review did some excellent research on this topic. Their analysis identified clear, inherent biases against women in business.
And unfortunately, over time, these microaggressions start to eat away at our personal stories, negatively affecting the way we view ourselves and the world we must live in.
What’s your story?
I see this all the time with my students. Women who sell themselves short because they’ve written a narrative about themselves that isn’t true.
We tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough. We aren’t experienced enough. Our time and effort aren’t valuable. I’m guilty of this, too.
We project our insecurities and diminish our value when we adopt these stories. We write false narratives about what we deserve, effectively undercutting our true worth and the value of what we should ask for.
Nothing could be more destructive … or further from the truth.
Being a woman, even in 2022, can be difficult. Society routinely undervalues who you are and what you bring to the table. The last thing you need to do is add to this negativity.
I wish I could tell you that there’s a magic remedy to alter your perspective so you can change your story. But the best thing you can do is learn to recognize when negative narratives are creeping in and shift your thinking before they take hold.
We all have enemies within, whispering lies. But you choose how you'll respond. Call these voices out and don't allow them to affect your actions.
Mastering this skill takes a lot of self-awareness, self-discipline, confidence, and time. In some cases, warding off the negative narrative will take deep self-reflection. Because you have to get to the root of your story if you’re to have any hope of writing a different one. And once you do, you’ll be well-equipped to negotiate your future.
Honor the women who've come before us by writing your own story. Be the woman who fearlessly and proudly shares her story with the world.