Article written by Likeleli M. Monyamane.
“…Live my dream of opening an educational center” – Charmaine Mofokeng
“…most definitely build a Ladies Support Center” – Reneilwe Maenetja
“…quit my economics degree and focus on my musical dreams full-time” – Akilah-Vixen Loso-Magubane
“…be more willing to get closer to those I love without the fear of getting hurt” Selloane Tseka
‘…Start writing a book” Lintle Kente
These are a few of the responses I got on facebook when I asked my women facebook friends what they would do if they were not afraid. The question was inspired by the book I am currently reading called “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook who asked the same question to a class of graduates in a commencement speech at Barnard College.
‘The book main purpose is to encourage women to have the courage to take an active role in the success of their careers, their leadership role and to take control of their destinies especially in environments that are traditionally dominated by men. This should be done, not only for the sake of women equality but also for the sake of ensuring that women’s skills and abilities are utilised to the maximum for the benefit of our economies, of organisations and of society in general.
As I read the book, I am forced to face my own inability to lean in as I grow in my career and to face the consequences of this fear of “leaning in”.
I have realised that I have been avoiding to “lean in” in the following ways:
1. I try by all means to avoid asking or answering questions in group discussions at work because of the fear of being wrong. I do this even when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right. This is so bad that if I do by some chance raise up my hand and someone challenges me, I immediately doubt myself even though I know for a fact that I am right.
As I am not able to stand for what I know is right, I then fail to get the confidence of my client, my employer and of the people I am supposed to be leading.
2. Being reluctant to have a discussion about my career and to negotiate my remuneration package.
One of my mentors is an associate director at another auditing firm and he’s male. When I asked him for advice on how to have a conversation about my career with my boss, he showed me a letter he wrote to his boss detailing his career aspirations as well as his salary expectations, and he encouraged me to do the same. I am ashamed to confess that about a year after he has given me these instructions, I have not done so because generally, women are not confident enough to have a frank conversation about their careers and their remuneration with their bosses but we are more likely to accept whatever is given to us, as long as we are happy with the environment.
3. Being afraid to take charge of the teams I am assigned to lead.
Ever since my promotion to assistant manager, I have been very reluctant to take charge and be the leader that I am expected to be in my organization, and I know for a fact that many women managers at work would rather do something themselves than take the responsibility and initiative to coach someone to do it. This is largely due to the fear of being too bossy or of being misunderstood.
And the list goes on. What is evident from my list is the fact that my reluctance to lean in and take charge of my career and my life in general is due to the many fears that I have as a young woman in an environment dominated by males.
Therefore, I decided to draft a list of my own to answer the question: WHAT WOULD I DO IF I WERE NOT AFRAID? and my list goes something like this:
– I would debate more with my male colleagues on the technical areas of the work we perform.
– I would lead more and put my foot down.
– I would raise up my hand and speak up to answer questions even if I wasn’t sure of the answers.
– I would more readily have a discussion about my career and my remuneration benefits.
– I would write more without worrying about perfection.
This list can also go on and on and on.
Now that I have identified my fears, I can go ahead and face them head on. I am reminded of a scripture in Galatians 5:1…”it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, in your freedom and do not be entangled again in the yoke of slavery”.
Fear is the slavery that Christ has set us free from, and it is our responsibility as African women, to pinpoint the areas of our lives that are crippled by fear and to do everything we can to face the fear head on.
There is so much we have to offer to the world and we can’t let our fear to keep us from achieving everything that we need to achieve.