1 CHOOSE BRAVE
American society teaches girls to be perfect and boys to be brave. From the monkey bars to the job application process, women reach for perfection rather than risk being flawed or getting hurt. As one of my clients realized when she chose brave over perfect, conflict or perceived failure no longer felt personal. She was able to make tough decisions and move on quickly. When you choose brave, you give yourself permission to be imperfect. Today, choose brave.
2 TAKE ACTION
Cinderella and thousands of variations of her tale around the world teach women to wait for Prince Charming, magic, or even a mouse to save us. Young girls shake Magic 8-balls, create paper “fortunetellers,” and tally friends’ votes before making a decision. Women are taught to raise our hands, follow the rules, and be “good girls.” But research presented in “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman shows that waiting actually causes women’s confidence to spiral downward; even perceived failure raises our confidence and is better than waiting around. Today, stop waiting, decide what you want, ask yourself “Why am I waiting for permission?”, take action, and stop giving your power away.
3 REHEARSE FOR SUCCESS
Women’s brains are wired to ruminate and dwell on hypotheticals. As leadership and sociology researcher Brené Brown says in “Daring Greatly,” women rehearse for tragedy. What would it look like if you rehearsed for success? Almost all the women I work with are stumped when I ask this. Their default is to tell me what could go wrong instead of what could go right. What does success in your next meeting, job, or relationship look like? Sound like? Feel like? Today, rehearse for the success of your next anything, whether it is an interview, a meeting, a conversation, a decision, or maybe a job.
4 KNOW YOUR WORTH
As the US women’s national soccer team is illustrating in their wage-discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, women are underpaid for equal work by as much as 40 percent. Not only do women typically not negotiate for our first, second, or even mid-career positions, we take jobs that we are overqualified for and are “grateful for the opportunity.” In my empowerment class of six corporate women who aren’t reaching their potential, three of them had been given raises because they were “bottoming out,” and another was told by her boss that he couldn’t believe how “cheaply” they were able to hire her. Today, work to determine your worth in dollars and position yourself for a raise, more time off, a paid vacation, or whatever else adds value to your life.
5 KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
I ask my students and clients, “What do you want to be known for?” This question often prompts tears. One stood up in class and said, “I don’t know. And how can I be a leader if I don’t know what I want to be known for?” A client of mine was told she was too nice to be the boss. She felt it; she was exhausted doing everyone else’s jobs. What she really wanted was to be known for being an effective leader who brought out collaboration and equitable input. She stopped putting in the extra hours and is now focused on accountability and clear expectations. Today, take time to figure out what you want to be known for. Then don’t apologize for being powerful.
As an educator for 20 years, Kristi Hemmer saw firsthand how girls and women shrink in a classroom, boardroom, and conversation; it made her mad enough to quit her six-figure job and start her own social business, the Academy for Women’s Empowerment (AWE). AWE offers programs and experiences to help girls and women be confident, own their power, and unleash their possibility. AWE puts the W in power: puttingwomeninpower.com.