Women face exceptional challenges in the workplace. To succeed, women must understand that they can have it all by defining their “why.”
Today’s guest post is by Raquel Gomes, Founder & CEO — Stafi
When Spanx founder Sara Blakely was a door-to-door fax machine saleswoman, she abhorred the thought of having to wear pantyhose in the sweltering Florida heat, but that same frustration gave birth to an idea — one that would eventually make her a billionaire. Her “why” was discovered early by seeking to solve an issue she knew she did not face alone.
Although women in the workforce have made incredible strides in the past few decades, they still face considerable challenges on the road to success. Those who are able to burst through the storied glass ceiling and succeed as Blakely did are those that land on their “why” — the driving force that fuels their passion to succeed.
The pressure to do it all and have it all
If the pandemic showed us anything, it was that women in America were facing a crisis. An estimated 12 million women left their jobs during the pandemic to care for and teach their children at home. They chose to leave in far greater numbers than men, and many chalk these statistics up to the expectations heaped on women to be everything to everyone at all times — pandemic or not.
Women who strive for career success often wrestle with the guilt and shame that can come with being away from their children, or even choosing to be child-free and focus on their careers instead. While the popular rhetoric of the second wave of feminism told women they could “have it all,” many women in the 1990s and into the 2000s found they were still expected to maintain the management of the household and the children, even if they went after their career goals. This led to burnout, some women choosing one over the other, and a slower climb to equity in the C-suite.
Finding your “why”
I hail from a family where my mother never worked outside of the home and my father was the sole provider for the family. As I grew into adulthood and began to forge a career, my mother’s financial dependence on my father was a lesson for me that I didn’t forget. I wanted to make good money and have a seat at the table, so I knew financial independence was incredibly important to me as I began my career. That was my initial “why.”
For some women, chasing a successful career is simply what they feel they must do in the name of all women, while others may live out the dreams of their parents or work as single mothers who have no choice but to hustle for every dollar they earn. These are all “whys,” but they may not be “whys” that are ultimately successful.
Every person has their own things they are passionate about and their own idea of what defines “success.” Landing on one’s true “why” is a way to instill drive in oneself to go after what will ultimately bring about that idea of success. If one knows why they are doing something, and what their passion is leading them to do, they will be more likely to make the best moves towards achieving a successful end.
There are several approaches to finding your “why.” Think of it as your calling or mission statement, your reason for getting up every morning and doing what needs to be done to get closer to your goal.
When seeking your own “why,” ask yourself the hard questions. What are your first thoughts when waking up in the morning? What do you dream about? Who are the important people in your life? Where do you see yourself in five years, or 10?
By delving into what you truly want, the “why” will begin to reveal itself. “Whys” are also not set in stone — they can be revised and altered depending on circumstance, since our passions can change and shift with time. Perhaps you believed their passion was music when you were younger, but then you find a course in college that lights a fire inside you so that all you can think about is drawing, photography, researching, or building. Your passion can pivot and your “why” can change, but your ultimate “why” boils down to the same answer: “Because it lights my soul on fire.”
When you find your “why,” you will discover that you too can “have it all,” you just can’t necessarily “do it all.” So, you begin to structure your career trajectory in a way that allows for help, delegation of tasks, and a path to success that makes sense.
The internal fire
The internal fire that drives women to succeed is in every single one of them — it simply looks different for each person. The common thread that runs through each story of successful women, however, is that they did not walk their paths alone. Even those deemed “self-made millionaires” had help along the way.
Women can still have it all, they just need to recognize that they cannot — nor should they be expected to — do it all. By recognizing one’s “why” and being thoughtful about one’s plans and path, more women can succeed in their chosen fields and continue to make strides toward equality.
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