With Great Responsibility Comes Power – Sharing Successes

Earlier this week I shared some thoughts on Leslie Bennett’s Elle Magazine article on women’s cautious relationship with power. The post was about women’s tendency to attribute their success to luck. If we send the message that it’s just luck then there is no reason for younger women to feel in control of their success. And that is what power is about for women…feeling in control of their lives.

Bennetts also shared some quotes from several successful role models who downplayed their smarts:

“If I’m not Einstein, I don’t even deserve to call myself intelligent.” – Condeleeza Rice

“I was stunned. I really was very unconvinced. I had a lot of doubts, and I kept suggesting other people.” – Hilary Clinton in a women’s magazine on her reaction to Obama asking her to become his secretary of state

“Why has there never been a female student-body president at my high school? Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Why didn’t I run? Probably because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. And the truth is, they probably wouldn’t have. There’s this attitude that if you’re a girl, there’s a limit on how much success you’re allowed.” – twenty-something Harvard graduate

That is scary.

A few years ago I did a study on the meaning of power for women. Much of women’s distaste for the word power came from a sense that it suggests manipulation and exerting influence over other people. And that kind of power can be abused. Some women took the idea of a powerful woman to a different pace, suggesting a seductress having power over men.

Maybe that is why women tend to use the term empowered. It seems less menacing and forceful. Perhaps it suggests taking an innate talent and giving it power …rather than being bestowed with power. Do we think it is time to graduate from being  “empowered” and accept power in a good sense? We don’t need to apologize for it or think of it as still being a process…we are there. We have earned it. As one woman said to me recently…

“When you’ve worked hard on something and built your career, I think I would like to be able to say “I’m really good at my job” without people thinking, “Who the hell does she think she is?” I think I’ve earned that.” – 40-something business owner

I was at a yoga class not too long ago where the instructor talked about the quote from Spiderman (or going back a little further…to Voltaire), ”With great power comes responsibility”. He believed in the opposite, “With great responsibility comes power”. That it is a great power to be able to share what you have learned with others. You have the power to shape them not take care of them in the original sense of noblesse oblige. Plus it make your realize how much you do know.

I know from my interviews that younger women are hungry to know and to learn but sometimes are just afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most women will be more than happy to talk about their successes. As this woman shares, just explain that you are starting out:

“When I first started going to these networking parties, I would walk up to people and tell them that I just started and I really want to get into the business and I’m looking to learn. I never pretended I had already been working ten years and was on their same level. It was obvious I was not. You’d be surprised how many people appreciate it and actually want to help. Generally, people want to talk about themselves. I’m more than happy to help. When people just starting out ask me questions I realize how much I know. It  is like “wow I really do know my share and have something to share!”

Some women don’t realize how much they have to share…you do!  Usually by the end of an interview with a woman for 40:20 Vision on what she knows now that she wishes she knew then…the women are amazed at how much they do have to share.

So my message today is to share our successes. One woman I know called it positive gossip. That is what I love about this blog and all the amazing organizations out there for women to network, share experiences and leverage our collective wisdom to connect people to new opportunities. Thank you to everyone for contributing to 40:20 Vision and starting these conversations!


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