Don’t be afraid to be a woman

As a 28 year old woman working in Dubai, here are a few home truths I contend with whenever I take on a new role.

1. Organisations will underpay me

2. I will be promoted based on performance, rather than potential

3. I will earn up to 30% less than a male counterpart working in the exact same position

4. I will not be offered senior roles if a man is available to do the same job

5. Being competent will make me unlikable to other women in the workplace

However, the most disheartening observation of all, is that we women are so focused on embodying the masculine energy that will enable us to smash through the glass ceiling, that we allow the strength of our femininity to be forgotten, or worse, rebranded as secret shame that must be hidden from display.

Instead of women elevating each other into leadership positions, we end up hunched over, holding our limitations above us, like Greek titans, lifting up the grey-tiled office sky.

The strength I am alluding to, is the woman as an empath. Women like myself, are occupying a workplace where we are constantly told that feelings are inappropriate. That by delving into self-expression and sharing our thoughts, we are weak, irrational, (or worse) on our periods.

In fact, I vividly remember in my early days as an account manager, a senior consultant from Oliver Wyman called me on my work phone to tell me that my email, where I had used the expression “I feel” was a women’s term that had no place in business. I laughed off my shock and thanked him for his mansplanation, but this was the first of a million workplace incidents where expressing myself was considered a gendered response, and therefore, unwelcome.

People need to stop enforcing the idea that feelings at work are a taboo, or that expression of thought should exclude you from the potential to grow. And this isn’t limited to women. Men too, should be free to express themselves at work and feel safe enough to articulate fear, concern, or even our own personal happiness.

As women, we should be respected and embraced for our capacity to hold people. We should be encouraged to mentor and support those above and below us in business. We are strong and our softness makes us so. And conversely, if we are underperforming, we should be called out in the same way men are. Our feelings should not be used against us in any situation at work, positive or negative.

Inauthentic expressions are something we are all naturally adept at picking up on, this is why sarcasm is so effective. So why do we assume people won’t pick up on other types of insincerity that we communicate in the workplace?

I see so many women masquerading in the workplace, wearing the thin veneer of an archetypal businessman uncomfortably draped over their femininity, having to spend their professional lives manipulating people to succeed. But what if we stop pretending and start becoming. What if we own our gender with the same old boy pride that men share when they invite each other out for golf?

Why don’t we try it and see how we as women, being women, for the sake of womanhood, can affect change and impact our places of work.

So don’t be afraid to be a woman. Wear your thoughts openly, and express yourself as the strong and independent human being that you are. The last line of defence against change is inaction, but if we all band together to challenge gender bias, then we are one step closer to reform.