While International Women’s Day on 8th March belongs to no one organisation, and although started as early as 1909, the role of women in the modern day work situation, is as important now as it was in the first decade of the last century.
For the ordinary person in the workplace arriving at work daily to assist in or entirely support the family is a reason to celebrate being a woman. What should ordinary women aspire to at work? What is the mark of a strong woman? Strength suggests fearlessness, yet more than being merely brave, she must know who she is and not compare herself to others. She must know what it is she wants and know how to achieve her goals. With many role models to look to since the beginning of International Women’s Day, one would assume that this would be an easy task. However, a little help can do no harm.
1. CONFIDENCE: particularly to lead, if a woman is in a leadership position or aspires to be a leader she needs to be confident. To develop confidence she needs to be self-aware.
2. COMPASSION: to be compassionate one requires the ability to read situations correctly. Important too is to be so without appearing to be soft. It is not to say that a woman has to compete as a strong male because it is vital to retain her exceptional feminine quality of empathy and her natural nurturing spirit. In these qualities lie a woman’s real strength as supported by the scripture … you are strongest when you are weak …
3. EMPATHY: that does not sacrifice discipline but an insight that allows her to understand the needs of those still aspiring to be as strong as she is.
4. DISCIPLINE: starts with you and must be fairly dispensed to others. A strong woman must look out for the negative in themselves before dealing with it in others. It’s important to deal with a negative attitude in staff members immediately it arises.
5. HUMILITY: none of the above can develop without humility. The strong woman admits to mistakes even when she is the boss. It develops leadership skills and is a good example to those she works with or leads. When staff see these attributes demonstrated, it engenders trust in her ability to lead or believe in her support as a colleague. The humility shown, by the African American woman who all worked for the Space Task Force in the sixties, such as Miriam Mann, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Katheryn Peddrew and especially Katherine G. Johnson, in continuing to do their work without complaint in spite of not being recognised for their contribution to space travel, is a good example of this quality. A strong woman as colleague should also remember to stand alone if necessary, to stand tall. It should not be mistaken for arrogance, as it is simply resistance to negative peer pressure. The opposite applies to pride, the mark of a weak and insecure person.
6. NURTURER: the strong woman nurtures and develops colleagues or staff without neglecting the stronger people in the company. Sometimes, to do this is to walk a tightrope that requires delicate management, because you do not want anyone to feel sidelined. A plan to have the stronger workers mentor those needing help could work to avoid this, and allay any fears they may have, of being ignored. In contrast to a nurturing style of management, the bully barking orders cannot develop qualities in others that allow them to become strong, productive people. It needs a humble, nurturing and disciplined person to see the potential in others.
7. AWARENESS: there is no place for self-absorption. A strong woman in the workplace is always aware of others’ needs. This knowledge enables her to guide and direct when required to do so while resisting the temptation to sermonise. A subtle suggestion is sometimes all the guidance a person needs. A more direct assistance in developing skills as in further studies, courses and workshops for any staff requiring this, is always a good idea.
A final word – all influential people have a plan, a plan that is flexible enough to allow for change when change is needed.
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