Several months (or years) ago, I met with a mentor at work to ask for some advice. My ambition and desires to learn more and move up were being ignored by my male superiors. We discussed ways of being more vocal, of changing how I phrase things in other to make the guys get it. “Lean in,” she said. “Be aggressive. Be a man.”
Fast forward to very recent days when someone offering career and business guidance told me that I am “too feminine” to succeed in business. I’m nurturing and kind. I remember that the part-time student had a test and the youngest daughter had a ballet recital. I keep ibuprofen and plasters in my desk, or know where to find the first aid kit. While firm when I need to be (or when I’m really, really angry), I tend to believe that kindness and professional courtesy go farther. In order to get farther in my corporate life, it was recommended that I change my behaviour; change my personality, change my wardrobe to match what a proper businesswoman is these days.
In my early 20s, I tried a tactic like that. I was abrasive and bossy. I made sure everyone knew I was in charge. I was the boss and I was miserable. It’s exhausting not being yourself all the time. It’s degrading spending your time suffocating the parts of your personality that you think are pretty great. This time around, I decided to ignore the advice and instead focus on some pretty inspiration women who prove that success and femininity can go hand in hand.
(*Note: there are SO many definitions of feminine and I’m the first to say that the way any woman wants to be is the right way to be a woman because it’s all the right way. This piece simply speaks to my predilection for what the Western world considers traditional feminine traits and values.)
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms
Queen Elizabeth II is an inspiration to so many people and in so many ways. I could write endless posts about the ways she sets an incredible example for the world. We know through stories and accounts that she is quite the formidable woman. Respect, even from those who oppose her role or her politics is freely given simply because she has earned it. Countless too are the stories about her kindness and good heart. In particular, one example stands out to me. Thanks to some brilliant broadcasters and a gracious royal family, we got several documentaries released in April to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. They all gave us rare and delightful glimpses into the work and private life of the Queen. In one of them (I’ll figure out which one, I promise, but I watched them all so many times I can’t recall at the moment), we see Her Majesty starting her work day getting settled into her office. She turns to someone in the room assisting her and asks about another employee, recalling that he had been concerned about his roof and a potentially flooding basement. Something so simple is so sweet and speaks volumes about her heart and concern for the people that support her. This kind of behaviour is the kind of thing my friend has warned me about, and yet the most powerful woman in the world is doing just fine.
Rory Gilmore, Reporter Extraordinaire
Gilmore Girls has been one of my favourite shows since it started airing. Featuring a great mother-daughter duo that reminded me (at times) of my own mother and I, it continues to give me much joy as I watch Rory leading the Ivy League, New England life that I always dreamed of. Now, without spoiling too much for our friends who haven’t seen it (looking at you, Amanda <3), Rory spends much of the show as a journalist working on the paper of whichever school she is attending. She is smart and witty and, by all accounts, writes a mean article. She is also kind and caring. Rory nurtures her best friend, giving her the maternal style love she so desperately craves. Rory uses her heart just as much as her head and it isn’t in spite of this that she succeeds, but because of it.
Beyonce, World Dominating Songstress
Say what you will about Beyonce, but no one can deny that she has made a major impact on the entertainment world. Her influence bleeds throughout every facet of pop culture, from internet memes to Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon doing the “Single Ladies” dance at Wimbledon last year. A former beauty queen, Beyonce didn’t follow the old advice of “Do what a man does, only better.” Instead, she focused on doing what she wanted, her way, and let the results speak for themselves. She’s never shied away from being feminine, from being a woman, from being a mother. In her latest album especially, we see that she is a woman who suffers loss, love, and heartbreak. She doesn’t “man up” and move on; she hurts and cries and feels. It’s a very feminine thing to cry over a broken heart, but she does it truthfully and beautifully. Beyonce proves that you can thrive in a male-dominated industry not by being like them, but by being true to yourself.
There are, of course, so many other women I could include on this list (don’t worry, Kate will get her own post one day), but these three have provided some much-needed inspiration and strength in recent days.Continue to be your flawless selves, ladies!