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Girls of Energy: Drowning Out the Noise

Girls of Energy: Drowning Out the Noise

We pose an age-old question to women at the top: is more still expected from women leaders or is this just a mentality we need to break?

Noise can be a deterring factor to anyone climbing the career ladder, and though here in Hong Kong we’re moving beyond the patriarchy, there’s sometimes a nagging feeling we still need to do more to gain the same recognition and respect as men. But why is that?

“Intellectually, we’ve moved past the patriarchy,” says therapist, life coach and business owner Sonia Samtani. “But we’re still emotionally influenced by the messages we received growing up … It’s background noise and a reference point for many people in the workplace.”

Many of us have parents who grew up in a world in which women worked and earned less than men, and years of reading classic literature and watching old films have subconsciously contributed to the ways in which we think. We may have begun celebrating working mums, but in many households the mother is still seen as the default parent, not the father. There may be more women bosses, but there are still far more men in leadership roles, regardless of where you are in the world.

Samtani, who grew up in a traditional household, was conditioned with the narrative that she’d never need to work for money, and to regard work as a hobby until she found a suitable partner who’d take care of her. “It took about five years for me finally to decide to focus on making my work a business, and that I needed to move through all the conditioning and beliefs I was carrying,” Samtani says. “I actively worked on reframing my relationship to work and making money, and faced all the emotions along the way.”

The key to not letting the noise get to you, according to Samtani, is to face it, understand it and then move on. “The way the roles of men and women are split isn’t based on who’s more superior, but on each of their strengths,” she says. Men are physically stronger, and women are more sensitive and caring. Both strengths can be helpful in our work and life in different ways.

Christina Gaw, managing principal and global head of Capital Markets at Gaw Capital Partners, says that any blocks to professional progress in her early years were due less to her own narrative than the way in which women professionals are perceived.

“When I was younger,” Gaw says, “I found that if I was firm, if I got things done and was confident, people might describe me as tough, hard to deal with and difficult. I’d get that rather than the positive descriptions that men would get by doing the same thing. Having said that, I also find that once we, as capable women, start to ignore these noises and continue to deliver the way we deem best, over time we gain true respect from those around us.”

Women aren’t necessarily expected to do more than men to be recognised, Gaw believes. Rather, she thinks women are generally more cautious in their approach. “It may take women more time to get truly comfortable to speak their minds, versus men who are used to speaking up – and confidently too – even if they aren’t necessarily accurate. Women tend to want to be 200 percent accurate before they start expressing their views.”

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Perhaps male-dominated working environments can also be noisier and more difficult for women. Jolie Howard, CEO at the private aviation consultancy L’Voyage and an industry veteran of more than 20 years, says it’s possible that where pilots and engineers are usually men, their superiors may tend to favour male colleagues simply out of familiarity. “I had a male superior who once worried if I’d get pregnant and not have the commitment needed for my job,” says Howard. “I actually came straight back to work after each of my pregnancies and excelled further in my career each time. It did however, place unnecessary pressure on me.”

Ultimately, however, Howard believes working hard and demonstrating her capabilities were the best ways of proving her abilities. Confidence, regardless of gender, comes with experience and time.

Gaw shares that view. For her, it all comes down to experience and gaining the ability to perform consistently and well. The more confidence you gain, the more you’ll come to realise the noise doesn’t mean anything. Gaw describes it as a magical and freeing experience when confidence in your own abilities drowns it out.

“The time will come when you’re so confident in yourself you no longer need reassurance from others, and you can rely on yourself,” she says. “This is a journey to be earned and not something that one can just get to without going through a journey of humility, empathy and years of climbing the career ladder.” 

Source: Prestige Online

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