Why do Women feel like second-class citizens?
Maybe the phrase ‘second class citizens’ is not quite accurate, but when talking about how many women feel, the description works.
So many I talk to feel inadequate, undervalued and that their opinions are always considered last.
Even supposedly successful women who lead Organisations struggle with self-confidence and backing themselves at times.
An example is a woman I coach. Capable, strong and seemingly empowered, she crumbles when a male colleague gives her a hard time in a Boardroom discussion and when I ask her why, she tells me he makes her feel ‘inadequate. Like a second-class citizen.’
You choose to allow others to make you feel inadequate.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of former USP President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best:
“Nobody can make you feel inadequate without your consent.”
But for women, it’s not always that easy.
In wider society, the movement towards gender equality began with the suffrage movement in Western cultures in the late-19th century, which sought to allow women to vote and hold elected office. It is notably disgraceful that it is in only fairly recent times that women have been considered important enough to vote, although there are countries around the globe where this is still not allowed.
She feels like a second-class citizen.
“There are no good women left to put onto a Board”
In February 2018 a BBC Reporter conducted a study of 350 SME Boards in the UK, with the view to learn why there were no women on the Boards of these companies. He spent time with each Chair of the Board, trying to research why this was the case. Here are some replies:
- ‘All the good women are taken. There are no more left to put onto my Board.’
- ‘Women can’t deal well with complex issues.
- ‘I’m not going to put a woman on a Board just to equal the quota’
- ‘Women should be at home with the children’
The research outcomes rocked the United Kingdom, with an angry outburst pouring from women around the world. It is any wonder women feel like second class citizens, when views like this still exist in the modern world? And this is the greatest concern – these are views of the present. We must wonder if gender equality and ensuring the equal representation of women in business and leadership positions has got anywhere at all?
How have these historical events and attitudes affected women?
- Traditionally we are locked into stereotypical roles, although this is changing slowly
- Many women have little self-confidence and won’t put their hat in the ring for a job they want
- Women in executive leadership positions often find themselves working with a sea of men and unless she is strong and stands her ground, can find the gender inequality a difficult situation in which to thrive
- Traditionally, leadership roles have been skewed towards men (and still are), often discouraging women from even applying for leadership roles
Building your Confidence as a Female
Confidence is an outcome. It’s like learning to drive a car. When you first begin, you’re nervous and unsure, tentative behind the wheel. But it doesn’t take long for you to master the competence of driving and over time, it becomes an unconscious competence. You just get into the care and drive. You don’t think about it because your confidence is high, and driving doesn’t take a second thought.
A women’s confidence is a bit like that. Once we get good at things, and ‘master’ them, we’re able to feel good about ourselves and competent to stand our ground with others and are in control of our lives. But for many of us, the journey to this stage is a long one.
I hear so many women feeling disappointed in themselves for not doing what they promise or want to. And I see many reasons why they don’t.
Women are busy
First up, women are busy. We carry the world. We have the children, work in and out of the home (more women are in the workforce now than ever before), we cook, clean, nurture, taxi people around, look after our aging parents (and hope our kids will do the same for us one day), act as confidante and mentor to our children or distressed friends, volunteer at the canteen or the homeless shelter……… should I go on?
The many roles we play make most of us exhausted and leave us little, if any, time for ourselves. What’s worse, some women I talk to tell me they feel GUILTY if they take time out for themselves. They have got so used to helping others and being there for their families, they have no time for themselves.
In short, many women have no time for themselves in their own lives and they feel out of control. No wonder. So, what can we do about this?
5 simple steps to start gaining control back
- Look at your life and assess if you have any time at all for you. This means at least an hour a day (more over the weekend) when you can rejuvenate and rest.
- Work out what goals you want to achieve. Keep it simple and stick to 2. Write them down and put them on the fridge in the kitchen. Display them. Include dates that you want to achieve them by.
- Next to each goal, write how a strategy of HOW you will achieve this. Will it be to save $20 a week to put money away for the holiday or will you swap with the neighbour next door to look after each other’s children when you go to the gym. If you want to lose weight, as your goal, so what will you do and how? You may need help to do so, so getting it is part of your goal.
- Tell others around you about your plan and show them what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it.
- Stick to it. No matter what, don’t deviate. Stick to your guns and keep your promises to yourself.
The point is that you can go on any wellness program, join the best gym or hope to go on the most divine holiday but if you fail to plan (and stick to it) you plan to fail. It’s time to swing into action. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Go get it.