Trying to win this game called life is burning us out, and it needs to stop.
The irony is not lost on me that I am writing this at 11.10pm on a Saturday night. But maybe that is why I feel like this message is so urgent.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase “But men don’t have to do that” or “I could never get away with that as a woman” or some variant of that, I wouldn’t have to work again. But then if I’d listened to any of those other women’s advice, I’d feel like I still needed to work, even if I had the funds to retire at 30.
This is because of us, ladies.
We have created this story for ourselves about the people we need to be. We have set the bar for ourselves about how the world has to work. We have decided we have something to prove.
Now I’m not ignorant that the system has been against us and has influenced our context. But the reality is, we have looked at the system and then told ourselves, “We can beat the system, if only we do more and be better.” And that is why we are burning out.
We look at a man taking a short-cut and we say, “Men have lower standards. I can’t allow good enough to be enough. I have to be perfect to stand out. Only men take short-cuts.”
We see a man making a sale when the man on the other side is his golf buddy, and we say, “Business is a boys club. But at least I have my integrity.”
We see a highly skilled man who has been in the industry for 35 years and brought in significant revenue for the company getting a promotion and we say, “It’s because he’s a man and he goes drinking with the boss.”
We see a man giving an opinion about something he’s not an expert in, not knowing if he’s seen this before or had a framework of thinking that can transfer to the scenario and we say, “Men think they know everything. They’re just talking out their…”
We see a man delegating to his team (us) and then going home early for a cycle and the school run, and we say “He can only do that because he’s a man. If I did that, people would think I’m not serious about my career.”
We have got to stop this.
Now, I’m not saying all men are perfect and that bias has been completely eradicated. But just because men have found a way to simplify their workload, leverage their network, receive a promotion, speak up even outside their expertise and prioritise things other than work, it does not mean they have succeeded because they are a man.
We are the ones who are reinforcing the internal rhetoric that they are succeeding because they are men.
Do you know what I have seen?
I have seen female leaders resort to unethical behaviours because they refused to seek advice and support from their leader, who had double their experience in the industry. Because he was a man.
I have seen highly experienced female colleagues burning out and having to take significant periods of leave from senior leadership roles because of the pressure they put on themselves to work in a certain way.
I have seen young female managers burn their credibility because they could not talk about anything other than their perceived glass ceiling and bully the men in their teams.
I have seen budding young female professionals blow their chances at promotion because they saw it as a right, not as something they could earn through quality work and a good relationship with their leaders.
I have seen myself, run my health and career into the ground because I was not willing to accept anything less than perfection in my work and my compliance with the strictest interpretations of policy. Even when I was burning critical relationships that would have advanced my career.
Do you know what else I have seen?
I have seen myself intentionally sought out by male managers because they respect my work and my integrity, inviting me to the ‘boy’s club’.
I have seen male leaders show incredible amounts of care and empathy in mentoring me, teaching me how to silence my inner perfectionist to transform me into a far more effective operator.
I have seen male leaders create opportunity for females in their teams promoting them to leadership roles, representing gender equality within our organisation and in putting their female colleagues forward for industry awards.
Strong business relationships and networking is not a “boys club”.
30+ years of experience to receive a promotion is not a short cut.
Offering an opinion even when you’re not a consummate expert is not being a know-it-all.
Knowing when to call it a day is not laziness.
These are the critical skills that we need to learn to enable us to sustain successful careers. And none of them are inaccessible to us.
We just need to stop burning ourselves out through the unnecessary stories we tell ourselves about who we have to be in order to be successful.
Then maybe we will find the capacity to build strong business relationships that get us our next sale. Maybe we will survive a whole career without a leave of absence to recover from burn out. Maybe we will speak up even when we feel like we don’t know enough. Maybe we will have the capacity to show care and promote those in our teams above us and below us, regardless of their gender.
Please, ladies, let’s stop burning ourselves out.