You often leave with a rosy glow, a sense of resolve, and a commitment to do more, for other women and for yourself. But then you return to your desk, probably next to a higher-paid male co-worker, and the old, familiar malaise sets in. There was no discussion of changing policies or lobbying members of Congress. No e-mail list to stay in touch and organize. In the end, one wonders if the explosion of these events is a reflection of how far women have come or proof that they haven’t made much progress at all. Why, in spite of all the energy these conferences generate, are women still just … talking? The Female Solidarity Have-It-All, Feel-Good Machine, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 8, 2016.
What always surprises me is that I never seem to see anything new. I expect this unique situation of this unique group will generate unique issues that I’ve never seen nor experienced before. I always worried that my experience and insights might not work here. Instead they are the familiar issues I’ve encountered for years in working with people and organizations, from government to business.
The bottom line, at least in my experience, is that it takes leadership, going out on a limb, to bring about change. Some people are definitely better at it, and will more readily do it, than others. Some people can push hard — possibly making a lot of people unhappy — but still succeed and be hailed as a conquering hero. Others of us push hard, make a lot of good changes, but are then looked on as if we have a disease to be avoided.
My best motivation in this confusion of what works and what does not work is from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her sentiment went something like: “What we do may be but a drop in the ocean, but for that drop the ocean is that much better.”
For another view see Can’t Get Support For Your Project? It Might Be About You
The solution, for me, was to just keep battling. Luckily I was always idealistic and always wanted to do the right thing, rather than do the expedient thing that would just help me advance my career. When I didn’t get the accolades or promotions, that I had convinced myself I so clearly deserved, I still felt good because I was able to do things that few others had. We brought about a change for the better. We delivered when others could not. Also, luckily, my material rewards were still good enough to live a solid middle class life (which would be unacceptable to some people) and I had no problem with my meager earnings as compared to the top 1%.
Seminars, conferences and certifications are great for getting going, but are rarely enough. Bringing about real change is inevitably hard work and often requires us to put our career at risk. If we are willing to take these kind of chances, then we can accomplish a lot more than those who just talk about doing something.
How willing are you to become a leader and accept the substantial risk that real change requires?