Why Women Need to Support Each Other
CoVID-19 isolation and the tedious same, same, same of my days being stuck in the home office make me try new things nearly every week to make me feel that my life is still an adventure. This is one of the few habits I have acquired this year I plan to keep up in whatever life we will have after the pandemic.
And everything taking place online is one of the few upsides of the current situation. Joining events on a whim is so easy; I have met more new people in the past few weeks than I usually would in 6 months.
This week, I found myself in an #IamRemarkable Workshop led by Kerstin Eimers. I joined late after a work call had run over. Tired and with little to no idea what to expect. I had blindly followed Adela Mehic-Dzanic’s recommendation, a woman I trust to make excellent decisions. If she says this is a good thing to try out, I will do so.
If you — like I was — are unfamiliar with this movement:
“#IamRemarkable is a Google initiative empowering women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.”
Here I am suddenly at an event where I am told that I should talk about what I am good at. That I should promote myself and that my achievements will most likely go unnoticed if I don’t talk about them.
If you wait for others to notice your achievements , you might easily be overlooked.
I had never given this much thought before, but I was brought up in a culture where talking about your achievement is considered bragging, especially as a woman. You are supposed to wait for someone to notice how great you are and then for them to sing your praise.
NEVER, EVER should you go peddling (that is really the word used in this context) your wins or achievements or, heaven forbid, praise yourself. Even my mom, who I do believe loves me, and I am quite sure, is proud of me, has recently called me Ms “Wichtig” (Ms “Important”) in a slightly embarrassed tone. I had told her too enthusiastically about an invitation to speak at an event I was very pleased about.
“Many of us struggle when it comes to talking about our own accomplishments. Cultural and gender modesty norms as well as impostor syndrome can prevent anyone from acknowledging their remarkable attributes and expressing their achievements.”
Working for US American companies for over a decade now, I have become somewhat accustomed to the constant chatter of self-promotion. The “look at me” emails, the “Win Wires”, the constant grappling to get a spot in the limelight, the willingness to take part in the most inane group endeavors to get more visibility. But I must admit, I am still slightly put off by it.
For me, even after all this time, it still feels a little distasteful and unbecoming. I also struggle with the fact that excellent and talented colleagues get overlooked because they don’t play the game. And more often than not, it is the kind and supportive ones that get left behind. And, of course, many of them are women. Ingrained societal norms they have been brought up with have them standing back or risk experiencing backlash, being classified as unfeminine, aggressive, or unpleasant for the same behavior their male colleagues are applauded for.
So here I am, confronted with the task of compiling a list of things I am remarkable at. Two lists. One for my private life and one for my work life. And I am remarkably good at writing the list for my work life. It is full of things people have told me I am good at or outstanding. I am a woman working in a male-dominated world and successful. Obviously, that goes on top of the work-life list.
I am remarkably bad at compiling a list of things I am remarkable for in my private life. But I come up with a few things. And then I find I am even worse at speaking about the things I have put on the list, which of course, is the dreaded next step of the exercise. It feels incredibly uncomfortable.
But it turns out; I am worst of all at believing that any of the things I have put on the list are truly something I am remarkable for. And I rarely believe when people tell me that I am really outstanding at something or that I did a good job. The sad truth is that I really don’t ever feel that anything I do is remarkable.
This is the crux of the matter. I always feel that what I do is just barely what is expected. Be it for my job — isn’t this what you are paying me for? My role as a daughter? — Of course, I will support you in old age! It’s all just normal stuff that I do- wife, friend, group organizer—nothing to see here, nothing remarkable.
I have been pondering about this dilemma since the workshop. And what came to my mind is all these amazing women I have been talking to for my Women in Technology Spotlight.
Every single one of these women is extraordinary. They have such amazing stories and accomplishments. The young woman who raised her younger brother while going to College and University. The one that went to a strange country to improve her language skills and now has her own business besides being successful in one of the world's largest software companies. Or the one who became CEO of her own company at the age of 30. To name a few, the list goes on and on.
When I talk to them and hear their amazing stories, when they talk about what they have achieved, about how they mastered obstacles, and what they do, I see their light shining so brightly it is blinding. Every single one of these women is remarkable. I know this to be the absolute truth. But I do wonder if they know this?
When faced with this exercise, will they have an easier time making a list, understanding, and believing this truth that is so obvious to me? I have no idea. But judging from some of the answers I get when asking women to let me interview them for my channel, and what I learned in this workshop from the other women there who kindly opened their thoughts and hearts to the group, we all struggle with this. With the understanding that we are remarkable, believing it, and of course with talking about it.
So what are my takeaways from this week's new adventure?
- the plan is to become an #IamRemarkable ambassador as soon as a Train the Trainer Workshop seat becomes available. And
- the mission to sing other women’s praise as often as possible. Just in case they struggle with it as much as I do, I will be the one telling everyone out there that #SheIsRemarkable”
And I hope you will too! Because until we learn how to better lift ourselves up, we can cheer on other women and talk about the remarkable things we see them doing until we are all comfortable with the notion of our remarkability.