Stop telling women what to do (or think)

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Some months ago, I was having a conversation with an HR executive about my job hunting strategy, sharing my thoughts on how my resume could not go through the sourcing algorithms.

I was seeking advice on how to get through algorithms, and I got some different advice:

« Do you need to work for a living? »

« …»

« Then, take a break. You are going through an MBA, an expatriation while being a mum… Just take some time for your family before getting a job. »

The advice came from a very caring place. I acknowledge it. What if we started the conversation with “what’s important for you now ?” And would a man get the same advice?

A few weeks later, while having lunch with my colleagues and discussing our dream jobs post-MBA, one looked at me and said that it would be nice to get an expat husband and become a trailing spouse. Is this sisterhood?

A few days ago, a man told me I don’t get why you are going through an MBA and all the hassle. If I were you, I would go the SPA, have manicures and enjoy life. Hey, we don’t enjoy life the same way.Is there any gender difference in the way we enjoy life?

Almost every day someone was giving me his perspective on how I should live my life.

First, a bit of background. I grew up with four brothers, in Morocco. I grew up with (kind, loving and caring) males telling me what to do and what not to do. I grew up with females serving men. Women are meant to facilitate men’s life. That’s how it is.

For many years, I struggled with the idea of wanting more than a family. I couldn’t even express it. Having ambition while being a mother is a shame (Hchouma). So, I used to identify myself as a woman who thinks like a male!

Through experience/books/podcasts/women network/coaching, I realized that I’m a woman who has imposture syndrome and is not that different from a lot of other women.

A few years ago, I would have taken the advice, emphasizing it in an endless doubts circle, ruminating over and over. Why on earth do I have ambition? Maybe I should relax and enjoy life, I don’t have enough credentials… Now, I am aware of the hidden biases, limiting beliefs, AND grounded enough to say no and claim ambition (euh, almost there).

My advice to all women out there, wanting more: Be aware of your inner voices and grow them, don’t let “saboteur voices” tell you that you’re not enough, or that your job is to be a trailing spouse or whatever. Think about what matters to you. If it’s being a full time Mum, do it. If it’s creating a business, go to an incubator…

Once you know what’s best for you, go for it!

Read, watch, follow inspiring people, and surround yourself with likewise people who get to the champion you.

Some of my favorites books/videos/inspirations:

  • How women rise from Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen. 12 habits holding women back. I love it; it’s clear, smooth and pragmatic.
  • Dear Ijeawel, a feminist manifesto from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A must read.
  • Lean In from Sheryl Sandeberg. A classical by now.

– Ted Talks


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