Leadership Lessons from the Pink Corner

Chosen or “Great game – which team?”

My little daughter came home distraught one day. The reason was simple yet very complex – she didn’t have anyone to play with in school. That day her best friend was sick and in the way of all eight year olds, everyone had BFFs – playmates, lunch mates and washroom break fellows – you get the picture. She felt alone. Excluded. She did not belong. She did not think she could walk up to the cliques and fit in. In her mind, if people want you to play with them, they invite you. They choose you and allow you to join in. She spent the break watching on the sidelines as people played – she was on the outside looking in and that hurt. We had the conversation on what to do next time. She is not alone. Many women play that game in the workplace – invite me in and see what I can do.

Contrast with her brother. I watched him recently join an ongoing soccer game he stumbled upon, while going for a walk with me. He finds a group of boys playing soccer. He took less than five minutes to say “Great game – which team?” And away they went jostling, shouting, laughing, kicking and playing and when the game was over a fist bump here, a high five there and everyone walked away fulfilled. No one appeared to think about being chosen. Boys rarely wait on the sidelines to be invited. Men don’t too. They step in and create their spot.

It starts in their DNA (I think!). It is reinforced by a world that encourages them to lead, to be strong, to stand up and be counted. That self confidence, the feeling that you belong in this world and there is an important role for you to play. It translates into their being able to get in the workplace and go for it. I have watched men who have no clue what a project was about get placed as team leaders because they come in with their hands up, chest out and they said in different words “Great game – which team?” And they get in, they learn, confidently making mistakes, explaining them away as the more competent women sit in the background and resentfully sometimes, wait to be chosen.

Women like to be chosen. We thrive when we find a space created for us with our names written on it. We give our best. Not because we don’t know but because we have been wired to care, to share, to create space for others, rare are those who don’t do this. It’s in our DNA. The only thing, is in these shark infested waters – rare will be the place where you find a niche created and warmed for you. Most times you will have to stretch out your hands and jostle a bit dramatically to find that spot where you can shine.

So one of the things you will need to learn as you navigate the corporate world is how to raise your hands up and say “Great game – which team? “ and get in the mess. You know enough but nobody will notice you shrinking on the sidelines. Put on your lipstick, don those heels whatever you need to feel confident and step out. Choose yourself.