Having just returned from a week in Poland where I co-delivered a female leadership programme for 12 women in a campus of 250 people, I have been asked this question a lot recently. I have had men question the need for women to be empowered and demand empowerment for themselves and women arrive on the programme fearful of having to act like a man to even appear empowered.
The truth is that being empowered as a woman is one of the most important things that can happen in our society right now because we are the carriers of the culture and predominantly the primary care givers. How and what we teach our young, girls and boys, is reflected in the society we exist in.
I have worked with women desperate to release from their self limiting beliefs who at the end of the programme realise that they are passing those beliefs onto their children. Women who have come to us blaming glass ceilings and masculine bosses for holding them back only to realise that we are the ones who constantly teach others how to treat us.
When we apologise 100 times a day or deflect our successes to those around us we are teaching our eco-systems that we are not good enough. When we self analyse, over criticise and have ‘words with our selves’, we are energetically broadcasting our fears and insecurities to others. We are telling the world that we do not believe in what we have to offer and so why should anyone else?
I watched a powerful heart wrenching movie last night called Sold. It was about a 12-year old girl sold into sexual slavery in India and what struck me the most was not the men who paid to take advantage of her but the women who ran the operation. The woman who went into her village and pretended to be a loving Aunty to lure her away and the woman in charge of the brothel who locked up the girls and used mental and physical torture to break them.
These are fictional characters but having spent as much time as I have in Asia and India, I know these people are real and exist all over the world. These women are strong, aggressive and driven by greed. Women existing in a very self orientated masculine energy.
On the other hand I was struck in a different way by the other women and girls. Those that had been sold and were existing in unbelievable depravity and yet found kindness and strength for each other. The women that constantly put their own lives at risk to rescue those that have been sold. Females committed to others, driven by the feminine energy to love, protect and nurture.
So what does it mean to be empowered especially in these extreme circumstances? I have two words in answer — authenticity and responsibility. To be empowered is to authentically step into who we are as women, to embrace the feminine and question the very masculine world that we have helped to create. We need to take 100% responsibility for what is happening in our society instead of waiting for someone else to fix it and commit to educating and inspiring future generations in a different way.
To do that we must first look at ourselves and understand what it means to be authentic. Who are we really underneath all of the doubts, fears and insecurities? Who do we want to be and what energy do we want to take out into the world? It is this truth that will impact and change our eco-systems because having the courage to bring our whole selves into our leadership has the power the change the world.
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