It is hard to stop thinking about Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, and that is naming just a few. These people were held in high esteem by so many of us, and had tremendous power to shape our understanding of the world. The only peace of mind in all of this disclosure is that the power of silence has been broken. This is a moment. The question is, will this moment become a movement? Will anything truly change? That is, in part, up to us: the parents, educators, coaches, guidance counselors, aunties, nanas, and caregivers raising our young people.
One step we can take right now is to reexamine our personal relationship with power. Most women weren’t raised to practice being powerful. Maybe our parents had an instinctual understanding of the paradox of power for females. While success and likability are positively correlated for men, for women it is the reverse: the more successful we are, the less likable we become. The pressure for girls to have friends starts before formal education begins. A 2015 KPMG Women’s Leadership study showed that the top four qualities girls were raised to cultivate are helpful, respectful, good student, and nice — not exactly the skills we want for our daughters when their boss tells them to undo her blouse.
Maybe now is the time to make a change not just in our HR policies and harassment reporting procedures, but in our homes. How comfortable are we talking about being powerful? How is that conversation different with our families, our friends, and our colleagues? Wherever we are on our personal journey, it is time to become acquainted with the power, or influence that we all have within ourselves. As Brené Brown says, we can’t give our children what we don’t have, and our girls need power now.
I want to donate to ensure every girl knows her power.
Our girls are growing up in a world where 66% of them will be pressured to send sexually explicit photos by 12th grade. Most of our girls experience #MeToo before they get a high school diploma. When they look around they will only see themselves in about 17% of the voices creating our narratives, fictional or real (women make up 16% of pundits on talk shows, 13% of contributors to Wikipedia, 14% of writers, producers, directors in Hollywood, 21% of Op-Ed Contributors, 20% of Congress, or 15% of corporate boards). Maybe with the job openings happening over the past month, that number might bounce up to… 23%. For our girls, the drop in confidence that occurs during middle school, never rebounds. In fact, while males gain confidence over the college experience, females continue to lose it. This can no longer be the foundation that our girls take into their professional life.
Our girls need to know the power of their voice. They need to learn it early. If this means that they become less likable to friends, or romantic interests, or even mentors, we are compelled to ensure that they are ready to accept that without hesitation. To learn this, our girls will be looking at us.
Activity: You First ☺
- Ask yourself: what makes you influential, either formally at work, or informally, with your friends and family? You might have more than one. A list is a great idea.
- Write it down on a piece of paper and label it, #AllKindsOfPowerful.
- Ask your girl or young person to take a photo of you with your powerful traits.
Once you know what makes you powerful, engage with the young people in your life.
- Ask them what makes them powerful. This is the ideal time to unpack what power means to them, and potentially expand that definition to something very everyday, and close to home.
- Have them write down their powerful traits, and photograph them with their (super) power.
- If you aren’t on social media, then this probably feels like a private exercise. If you are on social, then posting it shows the young people in your life that you are proud of what makes them powerful (if you tend to post other moments of pride). When photographing each other, see what it feels like to feel embarrassed about what makes you powerful, and try it again, feeling proud of your power.