Being a woman comes with its daily challenges which I thought I’d share with anyone interested. Obviously this is a very biased view as I don’t know what it’s like being a guy, but I can only share what I’ve experienced.
One thing I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser) is that the female population (myself included) tend to massively under value ourselves. Unfortunately, we do this in all aspects of our lives especially in areas which really matter including work, relationship and personal growth. Let’s begin with life at a workplace for a smart, hardworking woman! From my personal observations, women are more likely to be assigned ‘glue work’ in a workplace in addition to their day to day tasks (all of which we execute exceptionally well I may add) however, the majority of us are never brave enough to request a pay rise when we know we deserve it and the opportunity is available.
There’s interesting research which shows that when applying for a role, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60% even though we are 16% more likely to get hired. We are clearly good enough for the role or have the potential to learn on the job in a relatively short space of time, but we let fear and self-undervaluation hold us back. A few years ago I’d never apply for a role unless I understood all of the technical jargon, had experience with the softwares listed and felt like I was capable of doing at least 90% of the duties listed however, the experience of being made redundant changed me for the better and helped me battle the fear of interview rejection. I saw each interview as a learning experience and always asked for feedback afterwards despite the outcome. This was really important to ensure my next interview was better and I was better prepared. I suddenly found myself ‘job punching’; applying to top organisations most of which I never thought I was good enough to work at. At the end of this very difficult time in my life, I received three job offers. If I’d received one offer I would have convinced myself that I got lucky however with 3 great job offers, I just couldn’t put it down to luck. This helped me realise that maybe… just maybe, I had something valuable to offer and needed to believe in myself a bit more.
Another one of the big female daily struggles especially for women of colour is the “Impostor Syndrome”. This one could destroy everything a woman has ever worked for in an organisation. We often feel like a fraud, like we don’t deserve to be where we are in the work environment and even though we know we’re perfectly capable of doing the work, we’re often riddled with self-doubt. Unfortunately, this is another scenario which I’ve been a victim of and somewhat still am to a degree. It used to hit me pretty hard and I sometimes found myself having a solo muffled cry in the bathroom (interestingly I always walked out with a smile on my face like everything was great (this is an example of what Nigerians call “suffering and smiling”) because I felt like my voice was never heard. The one that hurt the most was when I shared an idea in a team meeting (at a company I no longer work for) which got completely ignored but then ten minutes later, a guy shares the same idea and we start putting together a plan to execute this. I was so upset that I decided to challenge this by speaking up about being ignored when I had clearly shared the same idea not too long prior. This led to a shocking response from one of my male colleagues (yes, I was the only female in the team at the time), which was “next time, say it with more confidence and conviction”. Now that hit me hard. The good news is that it’s possible to overcome such feeling and talking about it with close peers is an ideal first step as you are most likely not alone.
Let’s move on to the more interesting and rarely spoken about topic, relationships (grab your gins!). Most women will never admit this but I am going to say it here, we (thankfully this no longer includes me) would rather be with a guy who we know isn’t right for us and/or we don’t really love than be single! This is one of the worst types of investments with a return of sadness, pain and misery. The fear of being single is so real that it has an official name Anuptaphobia. For women, this fear goes up tenfold the closer you are to thirty like it’s some sort of deadline where our beauty drops by 90% with a projected year on year decrease and all our eggs turning to ashes. The interesting thing is this type of truth is rarely spoken about when sober, it’s one for after a couple of drinks just before the “I love you” speeches and hugs. Apparently it’s not the social norm to be single in your thirties (I call bullsh*t on this). I remember turning thirty as a single woman with everything to be thankful for but feeling some fear creeping in (but God kept me strong and focused!). Here’s a list of the common phrases I heard a fair bit which still amazes me; “it will be ok” (yes I know, because I’m awesome and my life is freaking awesome), “you will find someone else” (have I got ‘I’m looking’ tattooed on my forehead?), “you don’t look anywhere close to 30” (errr yes because black doesn’t crack but thanks for the validation!).
We know the relationship is toxic with no real love or long term happiness yet we have this amazing ability of convincing ourselves that we can’t find any better, the situation’s not that bad or no-one else would ever want to be with us & we’d live alone for the rest of our days as a valid excuse for why we are still in the relationship. In what version of reality is this an acceptable thing to do? Why should anyone spend their days in an unhappy unhealthy relationship. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been brave enough to talk (without the help of alcohol) or write about this honestly because I‘ve been fortunate enough to be released from such a situation. I genuinely wish I had spoken to someone (not necessarily a therapist,) when I was going through it and I honestly felt so ashamed. At the end of said relationship, while I was crying I remember my sister asking me, “if you were twenty-four and this happened, would you be this upset?” and I remember thinking NO, my age and the fear of being alone was what made me so upset and that was another life changing moment for me. Being 30 and single (for a while *wink wink*) was pretty awesome and the best bit was meeting an absolutely amazing guy who has shown me what a good, loving and healthy relationship looks like.
My fellow women, let us support one another and have honest conversations which lift each other up as we are most likely going through the same struggles. Most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves that we are a pretty unique & awesome breed and we have got to stop setting barriers which hinders ourselves from achieving our goals.
In her own words, “Tola is a London based Data Scientist working in the Financial Sector. She loves to spend her time running, travelling, reading and geeking out programming trying to build a solution to a problem. She wouldn’t describe herself as a blogger or a well-skilled writer however she is keen to share her experiences in all areas of life with others hoping she can inspire a few people along the way.”