“How does it feel to be the first woman in leadership trainer for our organization?” A true question that was asked of me earlier this year by a group of men at an elite peer advisory support organization. The feeling of exclusion began to fill my mind as I realized that I was not addressed as a leader, I was addressed as a “woman in leadership.”
It may not mean much to others, but there is a stark contrast between gender and leadership. I realise that being addressed as a “woman in leadership” has a different meaning than a qualified leader. As we continue to celebrate the shattering ceilings for women leaders globally, the natural excitement of finally pushing through some of the barriers to entry begin to dwindle as the titles that we claim are affixed with gender alterants.
It may not mean much, and may be a meaningless argument to others; however, the conversation of inclusion is to “include” all qualified leaders into the broader narrative of leadership without the blurred lines around specific identification. If a woman is just as qualified as a man to lead at the same level, why are we still identified as “women” leaders? Why not “leaders?”
The broader debate is if women want to identified by gender first and qualification last. This factor does matter in leadership. How tenured leaders view us is the way they will value women, hence the leadership cliff and decline of women at the top continues to decline. When we are referred to as “women” CEO’s, “women” speakers, “women” engineers. “women” doctors, “women” politicians, “women” business owners, “women” judges, etc; we are identified as a minority first, and leader last.
Today, I find myself reacting when others ask me how it feels to be a “woman” leader and “woman” founder of a globally recognized firm. My new answer is “being a woman is natural for me, and I have evolved into the leader I was called to be. So, there is no need to call me a woman first.” I am clear in my objective that earning my seat at the table was not a “pity party” move on behalf a group of tenured leaders, I kept pushing through the barriers and identified my value first.
Be careful how you allow others to reference your qualifications.
Always highlight your value FIRST!
I will see you at the top!
Carol Sankar is a business advisor for high level executives, service based visionaries and a leadership expert who is committed to assisting passionate, high-achieving leaders simplify their lives while increasing revenue by becoming productive, not working harder.
Workplace inclusion is not a static, one-off act of service. It’s an ever-evolving experience that requires the contribution of every employee — regardless of their level of seniority in the organization — to make each other feel included.
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