We are struggling today to make sense of what happened, what’s happening and what the future holds for us. When I say we, I mean us, women.
COVID 19 has set women back by decades in their quest for gender equality. The social and economic changes are palpable and have made a huge difference to the lives of women colleagues. Every second day, I read a post on LinkedIn or Insta where women are sharing that the they are managing most of the housekeeping, child rearing, home-schooling and family management – with only a few notable exceptions. They are struggling with finding time for themselves, to centre themselves and to draw strength from within.
Did you know that globally nearly 25% fewer women have access to the internet than men? Now with schooling online, low income households have already chosen to pull their daughters out of school, further aggravating that divide. I am consciously choosing to stay away from writing about gender-based violence here. But it isn’t surprising that this pandemic has increased the existing inequities in the system we live in.
I happened to listen to Demi Lovato’s Confident the other day, and it has been playing on my mind ever since. With the changing dynamics at home, women are losing out on the lead they made at work. They are choosing the kids’ homework or feed times over zoom calls that they can avoid. Networking for women which already was tricky, has now hit another low. As a result when we surface from this phase (which we definitely will), women will come across as having lost their touch, their confidence and their expertise. There’s just a lot of home playing on their mind, and not as much of work.
But life like we know it, is like that.
Beyond the challenge of gender equality though, my worry is women not being able to make sense of this situation. The silver lining is hard to see, but it’s there. In the midst of this crisis, I am witnessing the magic of mentoring relationships blooming around me. Yes, I am biased (Thrive after all!), it is so heartening to see women across the globe finding respite and hope in connecting with other women.
Women to women mentoring has the power to change all that you and I are feeling right now. When you connect with high potential, high power women, who guide you through this muck, you know that this isn’t how your life was planned out. And these tough 3 months and the rest of this year could feel like the rest of your life, but it is not. So, if you are a woman, here’s what you can do to make sense of what is happening.
Connect with a woman mentor. Someone who understands what you are going through in their bones, and not at a cognitive level. In dire times such as these, mentors are those who will believe in you and ensure that you keep believing in yourself. Physical and social distancing takes its toll on all of us, and doing a ‘double, double shift means we are exhausted’, not just physically but also emotionally. A term I am intrigued by is “emotional stewardship”. You need a mentor right now, first and foremost to stop feeling that you are in this alone. Loneliness (assumed, anticipatory or true), can be cured by your person who believes firmly in you. Sometimes all we need is to vent it out to someone who is able to relate, listen, understand and not judge us. A mentor who takes the time to support us to process our emotions is invaluable.
Build adaptive capabilities. Yes the pandemic has manifested in different ways in different geographies and different industries. And just like every crisis does, this one has also created opportunities. Having a mentor on your team levels the playing field. They can see opportunities for you that you may be blind to. Chances are that your mentor has had her share of ups and downs. Some could have been much worse than a pandemic. Your mentor will help you build adaptability, and to also deepen your understanding of what all it is that you can accomplish. Yes you need to approach this with research and facts, yet intuition plays a huge role. The capabilities that you build today will lead you into the future, and it is best to work with people who have a better idea of what that might be.
Switch from self-criticism to self-worth. It’s a tough time. Every miss will seem much bigger than it actually is. We have been hardwired to be self-critical, to criticize every little delinquency. We feel responsible for every action and outcome and in the pursuit of righteousness and excellence, we hurt our individuality. A mentor will help you move away from being too hard on ourselves. Solutions to every situation are within us. A mentor helps us find the light that enables us to see that.
In these uncertain times, the most important element that we are responsible for is to keep our sanity and our identity intact. This will all be over sooner or later, but how we perceive ourselves at the end of the day, will pave the way for the world to see us.
Having a mentor helps us see and believe in our strengths, our light.
And we project to the world what we believe in ourselves.