by Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life“
For women, the picture has never been rosier. For one thing, we are making huge strides in the business world. In fact, according to American Express OPEN, between 1997 and 2014 the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased by 68 percent — a rate 1½ times the national average. We currently attain more college degrees than men, and in several countries we even hold the highest office in the land.
So yes, we’ve come a long way, baby — and we’re on the cusp of a new women-helping-women movement that’s going to propel us to even greater heights.
Women’s power and influence are set to explode. We have the natural skills needed in a global economy that values collaboration and innovation. And now that we’re figuring out how to work together, we’re going to be truly unstoppable.
We should celebrate women’s accomplishments in this male-dominated culture, even though we still earn less than men, the ERA is still not law, and millions of our sisters around the world suffer violence at staggering rates. And while we still face barriers — in getting credit for our ideas, making our voices heard, claiming and using our power — we need to realize that, in many ways, we’ve been our own worst enemies.
In the past some women have allowed low self-esteem and fear to drain their power and block the amazing connections they could have been making. Or we’ve been intimidated by media portrayals of women who look perfect and ‘have it all.’ We felt we could never measure up and we’ve been obstacles for other women instead of role models and sponsors.
But now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and a whole new movement has begun. Women have finally realized that connection and collaboration, not competition, is the answer. We’re saying ‘no’ to the scam and yes to the sisterhood of women out there who are passionate, full of purpose, and driven to change the world.
It’s why in my book I brought together 20 nationally acclaimed women authors to share their real-life advice for breaking free of women’s traditional limitations in work and community.
If you want to be part of the women-helping-women movement, here are specific insights and techniques for unlocking your personal power and creating a better world (these tips are excerpted from “Leading Women“; the chapter title and the author of each chapter are listed below each one):
1. Get fluent in the language of power.
Avoid using long, indirect sentences. Why? Men ask for exactly what they want, and you should too. Also, say the first word. Set the tone and never apologize for what you are about to say. Finally, say the last word. In rough discussions, stick with it to the end.
—”From Oppression to Leadership: Women Redefine Power” by Gloria Feldt
2. Take to the podium (woman-style).
Take charge of your career by taking to the podium, which is truly the “head of the table.” Women excel at connecting with personal stories and reading nonverbal cues, so it’s easier for us to make adjustments based on audience reactions. Don’t waste time trying to assert dominance (as some speakers do). Get right to goal-oriented advice audiences want.
—”The Power of the Podium: Challenges and Opportunities to Be Seen and Heard” by Lois Phillips, PhD
3. Think strategically but act tactically.
Before jumping into a project, ask yourself, Will doing this add value? What is the most efficient way to do this? Should I do this or should I delegate the task?
—”Eight Key Ways Women Become Natural and Necessary Leaders” by Lois P. Frankel, PhD
4. Pay attention to the stories you’re telling yourself.
Stories can create great transformation, but they can also limit us and hold us in place. Are you telling yourself stories—about your family, your past, your abilities, your relationships—that are negatively affecting how you present yourself to the world? If so, what new, empowering stories of love, honor, and celebration could you be telling instead?
—”Transforming the Stories We Tell Ourselves as Women” by M. Bridget Cook-Burch
5. Inventory your personal courage.
Begin by asking yourself a few simple questions: Would you stay in a job you hate or do not believe in? Are you inclined to secure your physical safety despite great inconvenience? Are you prone to selling your soul (and you know it)?Awakening your personal courage begins with learning to stop and reflect so that you live from the inside—the bull’s-eye of your true being.
—”How Women Can Hit the Bull’s-Eye with Courage (Every Time)” by Sandra Ford Walston
6. When you’re struggling, know that it’s for your greater good.
Things work out in their perfect order. They do not seem perfect when we are experiencing them, but they prepare us for the next stage. This mindset will get you through the present and will give you a sense of calmness about your current circumstances.
—”Four Lessons from a Tire Iron” by Lisa Mininni
7. Learn how to reframe what happens to you.
This opens you up to new possibilities and presents a more peaceful and satisfying way to live. For example, stop making (negative) assumptions and focus on what you can do to influence and create. If you are a nervous flyer, instead of obsessing about your fears, approach flying as an opportunity to meet new people, help others, and create fun experiences for yourself and others.
—”The Power of Perspective and Perception” by Kristin Andress
8. Cultivate good habits for a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
For example: 1. Stay present. Tune into your senses and recognize something beautiful about your surroundings. 2. If you can’t figure out your purpose, ask your women friends who know you better than you know yourself. Often they can unveil your true feelings and skills. 3. Set a specific goal and time frame. Then, visualize yourself in the role you are trying to create. 4. Celebrate. Often, we don’t pause and truly enjoy our successes. Celebrate and honor your passion and purpose.
—”Ignite Your Life and Connect for a Better World” by Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD
9. Take charge of your money. It will empower you to fund your beliefs, passions, and legacy.
Many women are uncomfortable with money. But denying its influence, hiding from its power, or pretending it doesn’t make a difference won’t get you where you want to go. Look into what drives your financial habits and choices. This will allow you to take charge and express your values and beliefs.
—”Redefining Sex and Power: How Women Can Bankroll Change and Fund Their Future” by Joanna L. Krotz
10. Work to empower women in developing countries.
Identify women who are bringing about local change and then support them. This is the role of relatively prosperous women in the developed world. African women want the same opportunities to fulfill their potential that we take for granted. By failing to confront the imbalance of power that burdens women so unfairly, we guarantee that Africa will not prosper.
—”African Women Rising—Empowering the Agents of Change” by Rebecca Tinsley
My coauthors and I want to help other women gain confidence and skills to overcome barriers and reach their goals. We see this as more than a book. It’s the vanguard of a movement in which women reach out and help each other to change their lives — and the world.
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life” and urges women to connect to help each other create a better world. She is a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, and women-empowerment expert who devotes her energies to helping women achieve the lives they want. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on her website.