Why you don’t have to be a boss lady to do a career

“I don’t like to turn into a stereotype boss lady”, my mentee sighs. “That is not me. And I feel, I have to become such a person to do a career.”

This conversation happened over 10 years ago – and it stuck with me. Why do people – and mostly women – believe that it is necessary to turn into something that they are not in order to achieve an undefined thing like ‘a career’!?

I guess, it has a lot to do with role models. Women who did their careers in the 90s and early 00s were often quite similar to one another – leading to a limited variety of role models at the top. But when I checked on the male leaders, I could see a much wider range in behavior, mindset and personality. I could see loud and silent characters, talkative and rather shy leaders, visionaries and down-to-earth-bosses. There is obviously the option for much more diversity at the top – if we dare to bring our whole selves into the role.

I do understand that it is easier to follow role models of your own gender. But as long as the diversity in female leadership is less broad than in male leadership, we can see this as an indicator to path new ways. And maybe you are one of the new role models!?

Another point that is holding people back from doing ‘a career’ is the connotation of the term ‘career’. As long as male leadership stereotypes are dominating, they are also shaping the meaning of ‘a career’. What we often see is the results of the high income: big house, high-tuned car, expensive accessories. In the corporate world: the corner office, high-quality art pieces or the location of the parking lot were symbols of ‘a career’. All these aspects are part of a male dominated habitat: set yourself off the crowd.

But women are raised differently: even the youngest girls learn not to stick out of the crowd. Their behavior is modeled to be social, keep good mood in a group and take care of the people around them. In consequence, all the visible artefacts of ‘a career’ are uninspiring for women. (One might even argue that aside from how women are raised, these male tombstones of career are rather uninspiring.) This leads to a very important question:

How could ‘a career’ become inspiring for you?

  • What if you had the power to change the culture around you?
  • What if you were in charge of your calendar and time?
  • What if you can decide what behavior of colleagues is financially rewarded?
  • What if you had enough money to get help for care-work at home?

Career is exactly that. It is the freedom to decide about your time. It provides you with enough resources to delegate tasks. It gives you the influence to change communication styles, meeting setups and the culture around you. All this by keeping you in a position to solve interesting problems.

Whenever I talk to women and reframe ‘career’ – they are all on fire for this style.

I believe, there is enough room for more diversity in female leadership. Which style do you contribute?

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