More Women Leaders are Needed to Assure our Very Survival – I know, it does sound scary! – But hear me out, please! – Let’s become aware as we celebrate Women’s History Month this March 2020.
You might find the title of this article outrageous and exaggerated. And I would agree if I had not been working with hundreds of women and teenagers for the past years.
So, hear me out now, please!
If you are a woman, whether you have children or not, you are a life-giver, and there is a lot of power that comes with that knowledge. However, instead of feeling powerful, many of us, for many years, have come to feel fearful, insecure, ashamed, or harbor a sense of guilt or unworthiness, and these feelings and emotions create much anxiety and self-sabotage.
As I work with many different women from all walks of life, upbringing, and backgrounds, I have come to realize that the smarter we are, the more we suffer. I can see it now as I look back at my younger self.
As far as I can remember, I created a lot of pressure for myself. I was always doing the “right thing,” I was that A+ student, and at every turn, I felt like I could never win this game. The harder I worked, the more defeated I felt. I was growing angry and resentful.
I was looking for validation and approval, and all I got was judgment, criticism, and rigid rules that made no sense to me. I just wanted to know that I mattered, that I had an opinion. I remembered my mom asking me, why can’t you be like the rest? Or, you are such a rebel, why do you have this need to question everything?
Now I know she was concerned because she knew what it meant for a woman to be strong, intelligent, and to have an opinion, growing up in a male-dominated society like the Dominican Republic.
But I was determined to fight preconceived notions. “This stupidity will stop with me,” I used to say. I needed to be acknowledged, loved, or just accepted regardless of my gender. The truth of the matter was that I felt totally worthless.
Yet, I did not realize that I was contributing to the problem because I simply was incapable of loving myself for who I was. Now that I look back, part of the challenge was that I could not love myself because I did not know myself, and the power that was given to me at birth. Instead, I thought that being a woman was a curse, that somehow it made me less than.
On February 5th of this year 2020, here is what I received: “Congratulations, you have been selected as one of Hispanic Lifestyle’s 2020 Latinas of Influence. All the profiles will be posted during Women’s History Month, March 2020.”
Then, on February 18th, I received another announcement, “It is with great honor that I inform you the selection of Yudy Veras Bueno as a recipient of the 2020 “Mujeres Destacadas” a recognition given annually by El Diario to the most outstanding women in our community.
Please, congratulate Yudy! As an honoree, she will be in the company of the Tri-state area’s most successful and influential Latinas, making strides in the corporate, business, entertainment, sports, and community arenas.”
I was so honored and excited, then I started looking at the other women nominated, and I was so impressed and frightened at the same time, it was almost like, OMG – How this happened? And, “Do I REALLY deserve it?”
You see, the first thing that came to my mind was that nagging question, “Do I REALLY deserve it?” After years of working on my mindset, emotional intelligence, and spiritual strength, and, the same issue still came. How interesting? The challenge of self-worth is a reality. It’s like imprinted in our DNA.
Now, after working with so many women and teens, I realize that it’s the same story, only different circumstances, or different countries. During a parent and teen circle, one of my warrior women said, “And, I thought it was because I was Mexican.” No, Yolanda, it’s not because you are Mexican, or I’m Dominican, or you are American.
Then, why, why, why, do women and girls, regardless of the progress we make, still dealing with this issue of self-worth?
On a coaching quest, I discovered that the very thing that makes us the most amazing and powerful creatures on earth, is the very thing that is being used as a weapon against us—either by ourselves or our society, making us feel inadequate, small, and diminished.
And what is that VERY thing that makes us extremely powerful?
Well… it is our gift to give life to another being, to make space for one more. The fact of the matter is that as a woman, we have an innate ability to be a life-giver. If you are a woman, whether you have children or not, it does not matter; the truth is that you have within yourself an innate ability to make space for another life.
And with that ability comes an immense capacity for unconditional love, immeasurable caring, pure compassion, the fearless spirit of a fighter, and the inner strength of a true warrior. Try to take away a child from his mother’s arms, and you will see what happens.
I can make my point by naming countless women throughout history with these characteristics of love, compassion, inner strength, and caring. Some examples are The Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Mother Teresa, Rosalind Franklin, Rosa Parks, Mary Kenner, Dolores Huerta, Frida Kahlo, Rigoberta Menchu, and many more.
But we don’t have to look so far, simply look around you.
Look at your girlfriends, single moms, moms in general, sisters, professionals. They are the ones raising the kids, taking care of their sick parents, or a child with special needs.
They are already doing heroic work. They are the ones working their asses off to build a career or a business and exposing themselves, putting themselves out there and being criticized or judged. If you come across as too strong, you are a bitch; if you come across as too caring, you are weak.
These are the women making it all happen, re-inventing themselves every step of the way. Re-learning, re-imagining, making mistakes, feeling down one moment, then picking themselves up the very next. They are the ones dropping everything at a hint that their child might be in danger.
We, women, have the ability to literally give life. We are life-givers. As I observe nature, I wonder, what gave Mother Nature a hint that women are better suited for this role?
The responsibility to carry life for nine months and populate the earth. The continuation of the species. And this very notion goes against the theory of evolution where survival is for the strongest and the fittest.
For millennia, women have been considered weaker or second-class citizens and diminished for the very thing that makes us mighty: the ability to deeply care and nourish.
And this very idea that, somehow, compassion, caring, feeling, and loving are signs of weakness and must be eradicated, has created a society that is disconnected from what really matters in life.
We have created a society that is selfish, greedy, and self-centered because these nurturing, “feminine” abilities are taken for granted. They are labeled as “girly” with a very negative connotation as if being a girl is a sin in itself. As if having a vagina somehow makes us wrong.
During one of my women’s circles, one of the women said, “I was told in my corporate job that I was not allowed to show my emotions because it’s not professional.” I worked in corporate myself for 22 years, and yes, I was one of those women who dressed in black and grey suits because looking like a “man” somehow would make me a “better professional.”
I truly believed that being a woman was a curse, so I tried to be more like a male: the way I dressed, short hair and no make-up, nothing that would give a hint of my femininity. It was shameful; I felt ashamed of my body, my sexuality, and my curves.
Actually, this trying to hide my femaleness began at 13 years of age, when I dressed as a boy to hide my breasts. So, it’s no surprise that when it came time to work as a professional, I wore black and grey suits because that would make me more empowered.
And, it supposedly did. I was called, “The Pitbull,” while working in Pharma. And many were afraid of me whenever I was assigned a specific investigation. I emanated a sense of power and “confidence,” to the point that one of my co-workers once told me that I was “aggressive” as a compliment for being fearless.
But was I confident? Or was I disguising myself to avoid showing my insecurities and fears?
The only thing I remember is that I became so disconnected from my body that I hated to see myself in the mirror.
And many of you will say, well, that was the past. This is no longer the case. Women today are empowered and unstoppable. And it is true; you can see the evidence in the “me too movement,” for instance, where women are finally finding their voice.
Organizations such as, Lean in are reporting that over the past 5 years, the number of women in leadership has grown, however, women are still underrepresented at every level.***
Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38%. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level.
One-third of companies set gender representation targets for first-level manager roles, compared to 41% for senior levels of management.
We must take an active role in changing these statistics. After working with hundreds of women and coaching them to find their inner power, I have discovered that we must take a step back and stop “trying” to be confident, and invest in learning who are we behind that dress or that suit.
We must become comfortable in our skin as leaders.
We still have so much work to do. We owe it to the next generation of girls and boys. As per Lean In, we could add 1 million more women as managers in corporate America over the next five years if women are hired and promoted to management at the same rates as men.
We must make this happen if we are to help construct a new society, where we are not threatened by our gender or by the color of our skin or values. We are at a critical moment. We must use love and compassion, or we too will make the same mistake of condemning another human because of gender. We must redefine our relationships with ourselves and others, including men. We must be careful not to label men as monsters.
We have a lot of work to do. Ask yourself, what sort of society are we constructing when our very own vice-president has said that he could not be alone with another woman who’s not his wife?
Why not? What sort of evil can women transmit with only our mere presence? What sort of evil are we capable of inspiring? Or maybe we are asking the wrong question.
What about this instead? What sort of beliefs about women has our society fostered that a knowledgeable man, such as the vice-president, feels that way about us?
It is evident that, as a society, we haven’t done a great job. We can blame Mr. Vice-President and be offended by it, or we can acknowledge that this speaks more deeply to our collective subconscious mind, and it is actually a cultural and systemic issue.
And right now, when the roles of women and men are being redefined, is the perfect opportunity to begin teaching love, compassion, and caring as an actual life skill. If we don’t, we will face worse times.
And let’s be clear; a lot of women are stepping up; however, we need more women as leaders. It’s not enough. We must bring our innate abilities for love, compassion, resilience, and deep care to the table. Otherwise, our very existence is being threatened. All our current crises—economic, political, environmental—have been created because of the lack of these skills.
Therefore, it is critical for our own survival and the survival of our kids that we teach love and caring for one another. We must stop looking at each other as enemies. Including us women, who, for too many years, have competed against each other, putting each other down. It’s time that we come together as sisters (and brothers). Why not? And help each other up.
*** In 2020 Lean In collected information from 329 organizations employing 13 million people and surveyed more than 68,500 employees. Check their findings at www.leanin.org/women-in-the-workplace.