Contributed article by Donna Rachelson and Inge Walters – Co Founders, IgniteHer  

It’s no secret that women around the world have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has heightened the large and small inequalities that women face daily—both at work and at home.  

A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to take a toll. A study done by McKinsey in September of 2021 shows that women are now significantly more burnt out— with the gap in burnout between women and men almost doubling in one year.  

Recent statistics say that one in three women have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, four in ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs—and high employee turnover in recent months suggests that many of them are following through. (Reference: Article, Women in the Workplace 2021 – McKinsey and Company) 

We’re seeing it first-hand in our interventions at IgniteHer – women are feeling the pressure. “We are overwhelmed and feel undervalued.” One of the biggest complaints we hear from women is that they don’t have enough time to be everything they need to be.  

Our advice… 

Use the pandemic as an opportunity to think things through, embrace change and create new habits as part of this ’new normal’ we find ourselves in. Ultimately, what the pandemic is demanding is that women show up and step into their power.   

Everyone’s definition of success is different – “only you know what that means for you”.  

Focus on what’s within your control. When we focus on what we can control, our thoughts empower us and then trigger positive emotions. “Okay, so the situation sucks, but let’s see what we can make out of it.” It’s all about choices…choose not to fold the deck of cards just because you’ve been “dealt a bad hand,” but choose to play to your strengths in-spite of it. Choose to ride the wave of change, not crash into it.  

Trying to control or change what isn’t within your control will only drain your energy and leave you in turmoil. What you can control is how you perceive a situation, how you react to it, and how you respond.  

Take the time to evaluate what it is you REALLY want. Maybe all you know is that your current situation – whether it’s your role, salary, schedule, commute, or career path – isn’t working.  

Talking it through with a manager or trusted co-worker may be the first step to figuring out what needs to change. We don’t have to have the full picture in mind to start the painting. Just make sure the other person knows where your head is, and that you’re asking them for help exploring the possibilities. 

Ask for what you want. Once we are 100% certain of what we want, we should be doing just that. Easy enough, right? So, why do we sometimes find it so difficult to ask for what we want…? 

  • Asking makes us vulnerable.  

No one likes to feel vulnerable. Our fear of vulnerability and being judged prohibits us from asking for what we really want. However, vulnerability is a crucial part of getting what you want. “Through the very act of asking people, you connect with them, and when you connect with them, people want to help you.” 

We all have desires and needs, and by sharing them with those who can help we can create an empathetic connection and encourage others to invest in us.  

  • We don’t think we have a chance at getting what we want.  

We’re very good at betting against ourselves and closing doors before they’ve even been opened. It’s key to understand that, from an employer’s perspective, you are an investment. It’s in their best interests to make you a happy employee if it can be done. Most good bosses want you to stay at your job. This means that if an employer has the power to make you content, he or she likely will.  

Any assumptions you make against yourself are merely guesses. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe we’re right. Who knows? Certainly not you until you ask.” 

  • We are afraid of getting what we want.  

We call this hiding behind your fear. Some of us may be subconsciously afraid of success, as it’s more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation, even if it doesn’t feel great on the surface. Achieving success (however you define it) means you are entering unfamiliar territory. You are opening yourself up to be analysed and criticized – exposing yourself to new pressures and demands. 

The key is to think about all the positives that come with getting what you want, whether that’s a greater opportunity, bigger salary, more satisfying work, or a more flexible schedule. Embrace the opportunity as a chance to learn and grow. Your perspective can only be enhanced with a new situation. When we approach any request with a growth mindset, no matter what happens, we win. 

Wherever you go, there you are. There’s just no getting away from ourselves. We constantly search for something or someone to make us happy; the grass always appears greener somewhere else. But in every situation, there we are again. Most of our struggles we take with us.  

What challenges you at this time in your life will likely challenge you wherever you go. There’s no way around doing the work on yourself and learning what you can where you are. To find your path in life, you will need to pay more attention to the present moment. It is the only time that we have in which to live, grow, feel, and change.  

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Women who are empowered, encouraged, and unfettered by gender-biased business practices, show up and stand out in many positive ways. Given the opportunity and support, they become visionary, motivated, values-based, and accountable leaders who encourage a positive work environment. Our message to you…Is to be that kind of woman!” – IgniteHer 

About: IgniteHer is a non – traditional women’s development programme, starting with guiding and supporting the individual woman, her needs and a plan for her specific development and connecting that to an organisation’s current and future talent needs. 

Built on the premise that men have an equally important role to play in creating a diverse and inclusive organisation and actively includes them as participants, panellists, and subject matter experts. 

IgniteHer is created and led by Donna Rachelson and Inge Walters, who have climbed the corporate ladder and thrived in male dominated fields. Through their combination of business savviness, workplace experience, leadership development know-how and entrepreneurial thinking, they have successfully advanced the careers of thousands of women.