Ain’t no Wednesday Bubble but some inspiration. And I’m certainly inspired! Every now and then, you run into a person who is creating a new paradigm, one woman at a time. That woman is Kathy Korman Frey, aka @chiefhotmomma on Twitter, entrepreneur, educator and founder of the Hot Mommas Project and #sisU: Sisterhood University project. Kathy’s focus is to raise the self-efficacy of women and girls through exposure to role models. This approach echos the approach to our healthcare that I’ve been trying to impart since starting Flashfree: by talking to one another, sharing experiences, creating lasting support networks and crowdsourcing, women are better able to care for themselves (and those around them) and make decisions about their health that are not only sensible but also, make the most sense for them.
Hence, when I read the following post written by Kathy, I knew that it needed to be reposted on here We are always trying to be superwomen, aren’t we? Whether it’s our career or health, Isn’t it time to create a posse of empowerment?
A post by Athena Vongalis-Macrow and Andrea Gallant on the blog of Harvard Business School Publishing is entitled: Stop Stereotyping Female Leaders. The myth of the “superwoman” is discussed, and how this myth continues to be perpetuated by women themselves. This is sad not only because women feel pressure to appear or be perfect, but also because this is what we are teaching the next generation. Expectations are killing women across this great nation of ours…both expectations of ourselves, and those from others whether actual or perceived.
Many articles and books have been written on this topic, such as Michele Woodward’s “I am Not Superwoman” and Tal Ben-Shahar’s “The Pursuit of Perfect.” But are we listening? And, furthermore, how can we turn that listening into action?
A little story: Between the ages of one and one-half and six, my son had a “posse.” An occupational therapist, a behavior consultant, and various and sundry experts that would come into and out of our lives in between “special” parent-teacher conferences. My son would do everything he could to hold it together at school, and then have outbursts at home which included banging his head on the floor or wall. It’s shocking, isn’t it? Just imagining a child doing this. There isn’t even a word to describe how it felt to me as a parent. It turned out that his brain was ahead of his ability to express his feelings. So, well, he freaked out. Today, we have a happy boy on our hands. But I’ll never forget those days.
So, how does this relate to women being authentic leaders? Two things:
Get a Posse
During that time of crisis with our son, we had a “posse.” This was our group of experts to whom we could turn for advice and counsel. The posse helped. And my point for women is: Get a posse. More women are working, more dual income households, more masters degrees than men, more PhDs then men…I mean, hey, we’ve got it going on. But, some things don’t change…like our caregiving responsibilities or fundamental female neurology as brilliantly described in Louann Brizendine’s “The Female Brain.” Are you not worthy of a posse of experts? We’d do it for our kids. We’d do if we were diagnosed with an illness. So, why not now? As mentioned at the recent Sisterhood University (#sisUdc), we all need a personal board of advisors. The problems will come and go. The questions. The challenges. Even the celebrations. But the personal board of advisors – the “posse” – remains.
Develop a Vocabulary of Honesty
This is not for everyone…but the strong ones of us must continue to develop a “vocabulary” of honesty around our challenges. Back to the example of my son’s time of crisis: One particularly gifted behavior consultant had a knack for tapping into smart and sensitive children. She encouraged us to increase our “feelings” vocabulary around the house. For instance, when I would say, “Mommy feels frustrated,” my son now had a word to place on his own feelings. It was calming. It was re-affirming. What started off sounding kind of corny to me actually healed us as a family. In addition to running our house in an incredibly structured manner, this single piece of advice worked. Thus, women need to increase and model the right vocabulary in this strange new world which feels like a kind of “life moon bounce.” But how?
I recommend the following:
- 1/3 challenge – Talk about the challenge. Make it real. Validate your concerns, or those of your “posse” members.
- 2/3 solution – Then, talk about how you solved it, or how you think about it, or – perhaps you’re still struggling with it and you’ve just decided to be in transition. The latter two thirds of the conversation should be about actions, and perspectives that help.
Women: This is your chance to act as teachers and mentors
Women, please take the time to do the hard work and the thinking on this. Be willing to communicate your experiences to other women and the next generation. Why do you think I’m putting all this stuff out there about my son…a deeply personal topic? To help, that’s why. And women, if someone asks you “Why do you seem so perfect?” Stop. Think. Remember: This is a time to perpetuate a myth, or join a member of someone’s “posse” as an expert who models the right behavior.
About the author…Kathy Korman Frey is an entrepreneur, educator and founder of the Hot Mommas Project and #sisU: Sisterhood University. Frey teaches Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business, and is also one of the nation’s top business bloggers. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she struggles daily to cling to reality while raising her entrepreneur husband, Josh, their children Maxwell and Delilah, and dog Foxy Frey.