What is it like being a woman in a man’s world? As the world moves away from archaic patriarchal perceptions, with more women joining the workforce there is yet to be a boardroom with women leaders being equal or better yet more than their male counterparts.
Madeleine Albright embodies every quality of a modern woman living in a modern world. Her tenacity, intelligence and strong will make her an ideal leader for all women to look up to. Her passion in politics led her to become the first woman to represent the U.S. in foreign affairs as the secretary of state.
While speaking to New York Magazine, Albright shared her experience and a few pearls of wisdom on what it is to be a female leader. Familiar with being the sole woman in a meeting, she shared how her hesitance to speak-up, thinking her ideas were not worth sharing, allowed male colleagues the opportunity to present the very same ideas and receive praises for it.
It is easy to sit back and enjoy the temperature of the room being the only woman in a 15 member Security Council; but Albright soon realized that if she didn’t speak today, “then the voice of the United States will not be heard.” A realization, that taught her never to be silent again.
Albright explained how judging by her own life, women want to be liked. It matters to women what others think and feel. Her observations during her years as a professor at Georgetown led her to believe that the polite and careful nature of women hampered their ability to be as outspoken as men. Women keep questioning themselves, “Is this something I’m competent to discuss?”
Her simple advice to women hence is to speak up; to interrupt! “There will be those who perceive you’re [a b*tch]. But you have to interrupt.” Yes as long as you know what you want to say then say it with a bold voice. But it does not mean that women need to make their voices heard all the time. They need to know when is the best time to speak in order to accomplish what is meant to be accomplished and to “overcome (their) personal qualms”.
Albright goes on to explain, “I’ve said this many times — there’s plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women.” Simply because the margin of error for women is narrower than men as any bad decision somehow tends to be reflective of the entire gender due to their fewer representatives.
It is clear that the struggles of women leaders are real which calls for more women to step up and take on the role of leaders in order to change the tides of leadership.