Last December Leslie Bennetts delved into the issue of why women are reluctant to admit to having or wanting power in an excellent article in Elle Magazine. She shared her encounters with women reluctant to own their power and their role in achieving their successes.
“I’ve listened to countless famous women deny they were ambitious, at least for themselves. Even those whose names were household words claimed to have no interest in power. Power? Eek! The very word elicited such alarm that you’d think I was prying into some shameful secret.” – Leslie Bennett’s, Elle Magazine
The article went on to site several amazing women downplaying their achievements and crediting it to luck.
“Things sort of happened” — Drew Gilpin Faust, first women president of Harvard, The New York Times
“I don’t know. Lucky, I guess.” – Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan (on how she became governor)
In interviewing women for this blog I have seen this play out first hand. Many successful women say that things just worked out this way. “I was lucky”. “It just happened”. “I didn’t plan it.”
It isn’t luck. It’s being open to opportunities and having the vision to see them as opportunities. When I hear these women tell their stories, they talk of being in situations where they had a thought or an idea or chose one direction over another and propelled int forward. It wasn’t luck. They were in the situation to begin with because of their strengths or assets. They had the smarts to see the value in something and had the guts to set a new path in motion – making it happen and putting themselves in the middle of it.
Most women don’t see this. Interestingly those that do are irritated when others call it luck. One woman who works flex time at her company in order to be home with her kids gets rankled by her friend who works for the same company and constantly tells her how lucky she is. Her response, it’s not luck. I asked for it.
“I was unhappy and told them what I needed to stay. My friend made it seem as if I just didn’t want to work full-time and it just fell into place for me. I asked. Instead of taking what is given to you think about what would work for you and how could that benefit the company. Don’t accept this is the way it has to be. My friend is in the office 12 hours a day. She manages people and that is why she has to be in the office. But I didn’t take that position. She tells me that I always get what I want. No, I just didn’t accept what I didn’t want. I work hard but I have parameters and set expectations of what I can’t do.” – working mom
Similarly one woman’s friend always tells her she has a charmed life. But it’s not charmed she says.
“It’s not like it just fell on my lap. I made decisions and took risks that resulted in me having this experience. You could’ve quit or taken a risk too. I realized she didn’t mean it that way but the reason that it pissed me off was because I do things somewhat intentionally even though it seems random. I do it because I know that I need to certain things to challenge myself and to find new opportunities.” — SVP, Director of Communication/Marketing
Women…let’s stop attributing our success to luck. Pull it out of you. What did you do to get you where you are? If we keep telling younger women that our success is luck, what do they have to strive for or expect? Think about it!