In the 80’s, with the increase of women embarking on careers previously held by men, there was a push for equality in the workplace using particular strategies that, in summary, could be described as women emulating men. I think the rise of the original power suit was the perfect example. Women would cut their hair short and wear boxy, masculine tailoring with the sole strategy of blending into a male driven workplace. And while I think that there may have been a time where this felt necessary to get to where we are now, I don’t think it’s the secret to succeeding as a woman in a male-dominated industry today. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite that is the answer to a woman’s success.
"Women would cut their hair short and wear boxy, masculine tailoring with the sole strategy of blending into a male driven workplace"
Max Mara Resort 2019
Male-dominated industries are already rife with masculine energy and male perspectives – and all the beneﬁts they can bring. What these spaces tend to lack are the yin to that yang; the female energy and perspectives. So as a woman in business, why downplay what could be your biggest strength?
“When I walk into a boardroom, I am proud to act like a woman, think like a woman and look like a woman”
As a businesswoman, I am more often than not in rooms that are made up predominantly of men. This might seem intimidating to some, but to me, it can be a beneﬁt. I know that as long as I come prepared and know what I’m discussing, the fact that I am a woman is what makes me unique. I’ve never felt as though it’s something I should be ashamed of, or that I have to deemphasize. And in maintaining this perspective, I have been able to consistently establish working relationships built on mutual respect and trust. No matter your gender, what most people respect is conﬁdence in your own capabilities. Its true leaders who understand that they should not be surrounding themselves with those who are just like them, but with those who will challenge the boundaries of their thinking and bring different perspectives to light.
It’s my personal belief that someone’s insecurities are revealed in how they act towards others. For example, in the times that I have felt power struggles or have been unnecessarily challenged by individuals in a working environment, it was usually due to the fact that the person felt inferior in some way. The same could be said about a female businesswoman who enters a male-dominated environment and perceives her femininity as being seen as a weakness. If you go into a room thinking you’re going to have to ﬁght against all the men, then that’s the ﬁght you’re setting yourself up for. It makes you dwell on what you consider to be perceived as your weaknesses, as opposed to what your strengths, in truth, really are. In essence, it’s the Law of Attraction. And in that sense, if you initially put yourself in the role of a victim, it’s what you will become.
In her book, A Woman’s Worth, one of my favourite authors, Marianne Williamson writes, “You need not apologise for being brilliant, talented, gorgeous, rich, or smart.” And extending that train of thought, I don’t think we need to apologise for being feminine in any sense of the word, either. When I walk into a boardroom, I’m proud to act like a woman, think like a woman, and look like a woman. I wear make-up, do my hair, and while I’m certainly partial to a power suit, it’s always cut to ﬁt my curves.
Marianne Williamson's book A Woman's Worth tells us to wear our womanhood proudly
More and more we’re seeing fantastic examples of strong women who are succeeding in their ﬁelds while exercising their feminine identity. There is cinematographer Reed Morano, whose unique female perspective has been an integral part of her success, and who also just pulled her new television series from its shooting location in Georgia in response to their passing of bills she disagreed with. And then there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who doesn’t hide her youth or beauty behind strong, afﬁrmative words. And ﬁnally Marianne Williamson herself, who tells us to wear our womanhood proudly (and who is now running for president). The face of what it means to be a powerful woman in any industry is changing — and I’m so proud to be a part of that movement.
From the July 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia