We were in Orlando, surrounded by Disneyland, Universal Studios and countless all-you-can-eat bonanzas, but as usual we were talking about books. Hilde, one of my dearest friends, asked about the Cleopatra biography I was reading and our talk turned to strong women. She (Hilde, not Cleopatra) told me she was looking for more personal development and leadership books, but was finding mostly books about men. She wanted to find female role models.
This struck a chord with me. Nearly a year ago I participated in my company’s Women’s Meeting, which focused on issues we face in our business and in life. During that meeting a unanimous request was made for a list of personal development books specifically for women. I happened to have read numerous great books on personal development, but very few written by or for women. I asked the women in attendance to do some research. A year later, we are still looking.
Even when I widened my view to include inspirational female leadership figures, they were not so easy to find. So where are they? Do we not have great women leaders out there? Did we not have brilliant, savvy women in history to guide us?
Different Coaching Styles
It’s a valid question, especially when we go to the bookstore and see rows and rows of books about men written by men. We look around and see museums devoted to men, streets and cities named after men and statues dedicated to men.
Leadership, admiration and appreciation take a different form in a woman’s world. Just look at how we build each other up and encourage one another.
A man’s pep talk might go something like this:
“Okay guys, it’s time to prepare for battle. We are going to beat the opposition, make them cry for mercy and insult their mothers. Take no prisoners! Do you hear me? I said, ‘Do you hear me?’”
I just ran this by my husband, who nodded in agreement. Personally, I think it might be a bit much for getting Boy Scouts ready to sell popcorn, but hey, what do I know about advanced popcorn selling strategies?
What I do know is how I encourage my two daughters and how my female friends and colleagues push each other up. It sounds more like this:
“Okay, I know this challenge is big, but you are so ready! You can do this! You are strong, smart and wearing fabulous shoes. I am here if you need me, but I know you will be great!”
Coupled with a big hug, this is how I send my daughter off to face a big test—or a business partner heading out to do her first solo meeting. This coaching style may sound as foreign and silly to some men as the first example sounds to me. Fair enough, we see things differently.
Different Needs for Recognition
The way we push each other to succeed is clearly different, but what happens after we succeed? Women recognize each other in personal ways, such as a thoughtful token of appreciation or a gathering to celebrate a milestone. I bet you’ve never heard, “You know what Maureen would like? A giant statue of herself in the middle of the town square.”
Men, on the other hand, are more into ostentatious displays of recognition—public announcements, flashy awards, and, yes, larger-than-life statues. Some men would even be inclined to put up statues of themselves. (You know who you are.) They will do anything to make their success more visible and more likely to be talked about.
Different Definitions of Success
Are there truly more successful men than women? It depends on your definition of success. Historically, there may have been more men who have accomplished invading, pillaging and conquering. More men have amassed great fortunes and built large corporations. But when we consider success as caring for the well-being of others, educating children and changing the world for the better, it’s obvious women have done their share.
There are many stories of great female writers, scientists, politicians, businesswomen, doctors and inventors. Some well known names are Mother Theresa, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Thatcher, Cleopatra, Susan B. Anthony, Coco Chanel, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and our profession’s own Mary Kay Ash.
Yet we all know there are many more amazing women who remain largely unknown. One example is Harriet Russell Strong—entrepreneur, inventor, activist and conservationist. In 1883, she was widowed at age 39 with four children, and found herself seriously in debt. She developed and patented irrigation systems that forever changed Southern California’s food production.
Harriet started a water company, drilled oil wells and nurtured the largest walnut orchard in the country, thanks to her irrigation system. By 1890 she was independently wealthy and focused her efforts on social causes. She also worked with Susan B. Anthony to promote women’s rights, education and the right to vote.
To my knowledge, there is no street named after Harriet. Nor is there a Harriet Russell statue in existence. In fact, I have been unable to find a published biography for her, though her story could clearly benefit us all.
What does this mean for our quest? We need to look further and work harder to identify and recognize our female heroes and role models. They may not be found in obvious places, and our next great nugget of inspiration may come from an unassuming face. It’s time to celebrate the feminine legacy, greatness and insight, which may be found in the quiet woman sitting next to you.
So what about Hilde? She wants to write a book—the kind we’d both like to read—about great women. And I’m flattered she’s asked me to help her. Perhaps as women we can all make it our mission to educate and honor each other—even without the statues.
ANN SCHREITER JONAK has been in network
marketing since childhood and is pleased to raise
another generation that has never known life without
the networking profession. Ann and her husband
Artcreated the Network Marketing Mastermind
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