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Women Leaders

June 16, 2020

Stronger than We Think

The notion that women across the globe continue to strive to make gains in pay equality and job mobility is not new. Research, full of statistics and facts, abounds with information on the disparity between men and women in the work force. There are fewer women in leadership positions and studies show that women have a more difficult time advancing to leadership roles within an organization, despite often scoring higher than men in most leadership skills. In many ways, our current environment with COVID-19 further highlights the pronounced lack of gender equality in our world.

While more and more men are taking on additional responsibilities at home and with their families, we know that more women than men are asked to do ‘double-duty’ day to day – managing expectations and routines at work and at home, which creates internal conflict and exhaustion.

Female executive looking out at a cityscape through and office window.

Despite having the communication skills and the emotional intelligence to motivate people and be successful leaders, research shows that many women opt-out of top leadership positions due to social, religious, or cultural norms, leaving us with not only a glass ceiling, but also a perceived door that is slammed shut. The implications are far-reaching, creating a vacuum in our global economy and leaving us with one very important question: How can female leaders thrive, persevere and compete so they can fully attain their life and career goals, especially during this difficult time?

To answer this question, we must evaluate how we, as women leaders, can shift our mindset from merely surviving to thriving. How might we use our own sense of positive power in the workplace, at home and in our community to be recognized as a great, effective leader? And, how can we feel a sense of pride in the work that we do in all aspects of our life?

The answer, I believe, lies in resilience. At its most basic level, resilience means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. It is being able to adapt and learn from life experiences. According to the American Psychological Association, one of the top ways to build resilience is by fostering wellness.

Photographer in front of a mirror

To become effective leaders and successful members of high performing teams, we must stay well, both mentally and physically, by investing time in our own self-care. Self-care is exactly as it sounds – care for the self. It’s often difficult for female leaders to comprehend taking care of themselves when others need so much. However, without taking care of ourselves, we simply lose our zest for life, ultimately rendering ourselves unable to care for things both at work and at home. We burn out and our ability to be leaders to motivate is diminished.

So, how do we foster wellness and self-care and continue to develop resiliency and power in our lives? One important way is to take quiet time to yourself and envision being resilient. Answer the question of “what does living with both resilience and power look like for you?”

One way of envisioning resilience is to find a physical example of what resilience and power means to you. A picture is a great way to start. It could be of anything -a tall, strong tree, a friend who reminds you of strength and power, a child who has overcome a difficult time --anything! Once you have selected an image, share your photo with at least one person and then write down five reasons why your photo represents both power and resilience.

An example with five reasons it represents both power and resilience is below:

  • The person is relaxing in a hammock in the woods – resilience
  • The person is alone and reflective – powerful
  • The person took the time to engage in relaxation – resilience
  • The person may have fifty other things to do that this time but is not doing them – powerful!
  • The person has the courage to invest in herself – power and resilience!
Feet in a hammock

Self-care comes in many forms and one way of implementing self-care is not better than another. The photo exercise is just one example of how we, as women leaders, can take time to reflect and envision who we want to be both personally, professionally and in our communities.

By taking time to care for ourselves, we build our resilience, enabling us to rise to the top and assume leadership positions with pay equality and job mobility.

This article was written by Jennifer Moss Breen, PhD. Dr. Moss Breen is associate professor and program director of the Interdisciplinary Leadership program in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Creighton University. The classes she teaches include Leadership Ethics, Organizational Strategy, Organizational Behavior and Orientation. She was inspired to learn about leadership when she realized how quickly poor leadership can hinder the effectiveness of an organization. She believes “poor leadership will disengage people within an organization and exceptional leadership will empower people to thrive.”

Resiliency and leadership are topics that are taught across multiple disciplines at Creighton University. The concepts are an integral part of our programs in health care management, business, leadership, negotiation and conflict resolution and more. To learn more about leadership and resiliency from other Creighton University thought leaders visit our blog.