As the world is busy debating whether women or men can have it all, it strikes me as unfortunate that we are even having this debate. “You cannot have it all” is a lesson we teach our kids from a young age. As part of parenting, many of us teach our kids that they have choices and they need to make a choice. So, why is it that as adults, we seem to be busy debating who has more or if anyone can have it all? Of course we cannot have it all. We don’t have infinite time – there are times when we do have to make a call between taking our children to the park and staying late at work to meet a milestone. Or, even tougher choices about going to our child’s recital vs a big presentation perhaps. And some women may want to do so much of one that they opt out of the other. That is perfectly fair and fine. All the debate only applies to those women that want to have a career (not necessarily at the expense of everything else). But the key point this debate seems to miss is that it is about encouraging women to believe in themselves and focus on their strengths.
I wrote about empowering women a while ago. Sandberg’s TED talk sends a similar message. If you aspire to have a career, the #1 thing you have to do is to be confident of yourself. On a related note, over the years, there has been a lot of debate on whether it is necessary for a woman to look good to be successful (do looks matter?). I strongly believe it is tied back to self-confidence – the confidence that comes naturally when we feel good; the feeling that sometimes comes when we think we look good! So, it is necessary to dress for success – only in a way that maps to our confidence.
As women, we are wired to think differently from men. That is a known theory, one that we see play out a lot in life. However, being more self aware of our strengths and weaknesses can bring so much to our success. There is no reason for us to hold back. We need to know that we can do as well as our male counterparts. We need to forget about gender for that moment and pull up a chair “at the table”, to borrow Sandberg’s phrase. More often than not, it is us, women, that self-impose restrictions on ourselves. If we believed we can do it and we acted like we can do it, the rest will follow. Let’s focus on the fundamental message of leadership here instead of the futile debate on having it all!