Half of the African Union’s agenda for 2015 focuses on the empowerment of women: increased participation in social, economic and political fields. As a continent, we have a long way to go in ensuring that women’s causes do not get lost in what is now a euphemism for next era African development.
If, as a woman you continuously feel besieged by the system, beliefs and attitudes whenever you try to disrupt the status quo, then you’re not alone. Women all over the world, even in the developed world still struggle with the stereotypes that challenge equality. The consolation is, even those who have conquered their fear still find themselves battling with a crisis of confidence every so often. The key is in using this fear, not as a way of paralyzing you but as a way of tuning into your gut.
Do it anyway
Women who have had their successes handed to them without facing sometimes debilitating fear are less than 1%. A recent ‘women in fashion’ conference in one of the world’s fashion capitals brought together women who have been in the industry for decades. Even in this field that is predominantly women-wired, they all confessed to having moments of self-doubt, but forging ahead anyway. Mulling over an idea for too long can sometimes be debilitating. Focus on launching and learning, as long as you have weighed the risks objectively.
Whether in business or the workplace, it can feel lonely when you set out to make a difference by yourself. Form alliances and partnerships with people who are different from but complement you. This addresses your gaps and allows you to share and reduce the risk. It also aids in learning and helps you avoid common pitfalls.
Find a sponsor
A sponsor is different from a mentor in that while the latter listens and advices you, the former believes in the change you’re trying to create and will either support you or introduce you to people who can support you. In business this could be the difference between being able to finance and grow your business or accessing a different market, and stagnating for a significant period of time.
- Do not let fear of the unknown hold you back, but use it as a way of listening to and honing your gut feelings/reactions.
- Form collaborations and partnerships especially in the areas where you identify skill gaps.
- Cultivate both mentors and sponsors as these will enable you to push your dreams further and faster.