For those of us chasing grace as women in business there seemed to be a lot to consider in the stories of the passing of great men. Months ago we were struck with the nature of the stories of H.W. Bush. Regardless of your personal politics, there was quite a bit to take in regarding the life story of this former president. It’s worth a read of the coverage outlining his amazing personal accomplishments and much lauded diplomatic acumen. As the only president to serve as U.N. Ambassador, Bush historically presided as president over a number of world-changing events including the reunification of East and West Germany. He is also credited as the only president who could have ended the cold war.
To be clear, this doesn’t overlook his faults. Calling out Bush’s grace and diplomacy doesn’t erase a long list of failings from the AIDS Crisis to Clarence Thomas, a failed drug war and the terribly racist Willie Horton ads. But unlike our current president, Bush expressed evolving and open minded thinking across his lifetime. He also liked to laugh at himself and his friendship with Dana Carvey who portrayed him on SNL as an example of a humility not in current fashion.
What is Connection to Women in Business
But circling back to how this relates to finding grace as women in business? Well, there were a few things that struck us in the coverage. First, there is the way in which we allow for the political mistakes of a good person when they happen to be a man. As women, we aren’t necessarily given the latitude to be considered gracious. We can’t seem to make mistakes; act ruthless and not let that bare on our character down the line. Some of last year’s spate of articles on Sheryl Sandberg reinforce this notion. Now, Sandberg very may well prove to be the antithesis of gracious, but it’s too easy for us to look in reverence to men regarding this trait. And then celebrate the fall of a woman who we ‘expected more of’. Because we aren’t suppose to be ambitious, political or mistaken at times.
And, of course, no better example of the inequality in the perception of women vs. men when it comes to their political successes, failures and and personality than that of Hillary Clinton. From her great successes to laser accuracy around what a Trump presidency would unleash; and the fact that she won the popular vote by historic proportions, it’s an unequal game.
And finally, if you didn’t catch this one las well, it was a doozy. The New York Times was forced to change it’s headline regarding Nancy Pelosi’s nomination as Democratic Speaker of the House last year (see below and a big thank you to Daily Kos reporter David Nir for uncovering)
So What to Do
We often uncover what is unfair and are left with little recourse. So thought we’d share a few thoughts and ideas for continuing to help chip away at the tide.
Haters Back Off
As women feel marginalized at work, at home and in life there is a tendency to capitulate to the haters. Fans of Miranda Sings know she has a tendency to ‘fail up‘. A much loved trope of late are of young women not giving a damn. But there is something to it. It’s not an easy task; even the most confident get pulled into a box where all they can see up, down and around them is disdain. You have to shake it off. No transformative idea or thought that’s new is likely to be met with cheers from around you. So you need to keep repeating that ‘haters are gonna hate’ and you are better than that.
High-Roading it is Hard
Backing up to Nancy Pelosi, one interesting tidbit keeps rising to the surface in the news around her effort to reclaim the speaker’s role…her ability to win others over to her way. Despite the media’s effort to make it sound like the party is revolting, Pelosi has had an uncanny ability to talk through the noise straight through to a ‘yes’. Quoting a Washington Post piece by journalist Dana Houle – ‘…Pelosi is one of the most underrated American politicians of the past half-century’. And again, while we see again how the messages scream ‘everyone hates her’ – it’s simply not true. Nancy Pelosi knows her strengths; knows the end game; and keeps it classy.
Be Sure What You Believe
Oftentimes women question their own best instincts. How often have you felt so sure about something only to allow the pressure of others’ questioning to send you spiraling. We forget that ideas that are new, that run contrary to the norm, but feel right in our gut, aren’t always going to be received with open arms. The fact is we area always going to face more questioning regarding our leadership and ideas than men. The key is going to be how we dig our heals in and don’t budge from what we know to be true and right.
Find Your Anchor
Everyone needs someone to have her back. You need to find those who believe in you and listen to what you have to say. It’s the person who never flinches or goes away. These are the people – be it friends or family – who give you the strength to push ahead. For better or worse (literally) Hillary Clinton speaks of her partnership with her husband President Clinton. For Oprah Winfrey it’s been her best friend. You need someone who can help right the storm so you can forge ahead.
In the end, for someone like George HW Bush, being a gracious leader comes easy when the a world tilted to the patriarchy cheers you on. While the praise was due and history will treat him well, it’s hard not to miss how much harder we need to fight to ensure the women of his likeness get their due and we live in a world that isn’t as stacked against us.