Yes, you can be a strong woman, a powerful professional and still retain your femininity in the workplace. Femininity doesn’t equate to sexuality, nor does it mean you only wear frilly clothes with lots of lace and pink flowers. Femininity means responding to your intuition, to your capacity for caring/nurturing and to your ability to multi-task. Femininity also means you stay true to yourself and that you embrace your authentic self. In other words, don’t try to be like the guys just because you think they will like you more or that you’ll be promoted faster.
Connie Cwik is a corporate coach for 20+ years and when she was working for Microsoft was responsible for building a strong team between Microsoft and GM. As a result, Microsoft’s rating on the coveted GM Strategic Vendor Scorecard from 16th to 2nd – in just 36 months. I had the pleasure of meeting Connie at the Coffee and Contacts Power Lunch at Brio Tuscan Grill on Friday, August 14th where she gave an energetic talk on “Femininity in the Workplace.” Dressed in a pale pink jacket with a bias-cut floral cut and pink shoes before the crowd of over fifty women, Connie stressed to the group, “We as women have a way to connect at a different level than men. When you give up your femininity, you give up your power.”
Connie further emphasized how women need to acknowledge their gifts and their strengths that make them great. “Femininity is not a weak term at all! Being feminine means being a lover to your husband or partner, a nurturer and a best friend to all of your girlfriends.”
I also see that acknowledging one’s femininity means setting boundaries and knowing that it’s OK to not do work (if you work for yourself) between the hours of 4-9pm so you can pick up your kids, make dinner and put the kids to bed. Now if you work in a traditional workspace, you need to know it’s OK to leave at 5 or 5:30 to pick up the kids from daycare and not be made to feel guilty that you’re not sharing your weight. You need to know that you put 110% into your work and that you are productive and focused. Before I had kids I worked for a company that made working mothers feel guilty when they didn’t come in on Saturdays or stay till 7pm every night. A few women were on a flexible schedule (coming in at 7:30 and leaving at 4:30), but their bosses didn’t treat them with respect. No one complained because they were scared about losing their job. Of course no one was happy. Studies show that work places that allow for flexibility increase their productivity and morale. In any case, my old company experienced high turnover because many women braver than myself left to seek better working conditions. Since those dark days, I’ve sought a life-family balance and that includes working for myself and not trying to be somebody I’m not.
But with whatever career path women choose, they need to know that they have special gifts that come with being a woman. These gifts include intuition, nurturing and multi-tasking. Intuition is important so you may attract the best business partners and the best clients for you. Nurturing increases morale and employee retention. Connie gave an example of how she repurposed her employee “Paul” from one job into another, rather than firing him because he was a valuable employee who just wasn’t in the right position for his skill set. Because of her attention to his situation, Paul still keeps in touch with Connie years later. Lastly, multi-tasking makes women more productive and focused and allows them to handle stressful situations with grace and aplomb.
Connie concluded, “The only way we can keep the family-life balance is to be authentic to who we are and that means that we don’t all have to be the same!” I took this to mean that women should stop comparing themselves with other women and pay attention to their own thresholds and pain tolerances. Some moms with three children can do more than some moms with one kid and you know what? And that’s OK! But above all, we need to stop wishing we didn’t have family obligations or emotions so the powers that be could like us better. We need to be who we are (women who care about others and family!), set realistic long-term goals (i.e. not try to be superwomen), and celebrate our feminine powers which set us apart from the guys!