March 8 is recognized around the world as International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, while calling for the acceleration of gender parity. This year’s theme,
“Be Bold For Change,” may seem simple, yet it still is a challenge for many women, of all ages and at every phase of their lives.
Learning to be bold starts early.
My daughter’s classroom recently had a contest in which they created a book and together decided which child’s drawing would become the cover art. My daughter’s drawing was chosen as a finalist, along with a male classmate’s artwork, and the children in the class voted to break the tie. My daughter voted for the boy’s picture instead of her own, and ultimately lost by one vote. The boy voted for himself. While I was proud that my daughter showed such empathy and kindness, I was disheartened that she gave up an opportunity that she equally wanted. So what did I do? I framed the losing artwork and wrote on the glass, “Don’t give away what you earned.”
This mind-set certainly isn’t exclusive to girls in the classroom. Women pass up—or don’t even pursue—opportunities and defer to male counterparts every day. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I challenge all women professionals to take a bold step forward toward greater empowerment and confidence.
Here are three ways to embrace your successes and be a better advocate for yourself.
Whether it’s taking on a new project or communicating the progress of your work, you need to take what’s yours and own it. This includes both accepting responsibility for your mistakes and credit for your accomplishments. Sharing failure can be uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s even harder to accept your successes. Don’t downplay praise because you feel that it attracts too much attention to you or may make you seem conceited. Simply say, “Thank you.”
Be a mentor
While it’s important to be your own advocate, it’s equally important to promote others. Very few of us are solely responsible for our own success; we have mentors, teammates, and friends supporting us along the way. Be appreciative of these people by becoming that person for someone else.
Take care of yourself
Many women, myself included, feel the pressure to be perfect—as mothers, wives, caregivers, employees, managers, and role models. We feel stressed and guilty if we don’t succeed. Studies show that women experience more workplace stress than men—and while it may seem that working longer hours and taking on more projects are ways to get ahead, the recognition should never come at the expense of our health.
Through my personal experience with stress, I have learned that perfection is not a goal that can be achieved in life, and making mistakes is part of being human. It’s important to recognize your limits and set realistic expectations of yourself, and to replace stress-inducing thoughts with encouraging ones.
I urge all women to remember that being bold doesn’t just mean standing up for others—it also means standing up for yourself. Taking steps to ensure that you are supporting your best interests can give you the confidence to be a better employee, coworker, and manager. DW
Nicole McCabe is the senior director of global diversity and inclusion at SAP.