The response I received to the ebook “15 Laws of Power for Women” indicates women tend to mix up the concepts of strength and power.
It reminds me of a couple who chose to be in a live-in relationship in the eighties, when the concept was not common in India. It may not have been a smooth ride.
Once, in a fit of rage, the husband (who had achieved professional success till then) said “I made it in life - despite you.” We will not discuss the impact of the barb, and the ups and downs in the relationship here, but focus on the word ‘despite’.
Strength indicates a capacity to make it in life, despite problems. It is internal.
Power is a focus on the external. It is the capacity to move levers, to make your ecosystem respond in a way you want it to.
HOW IS IT RELEVANT TO WOMEN?
Women tend to seek comfort in being strong.
I’ve been a silent audience to women’s conversations in office lunch rooms, in kitty parties and at women’s events.
A socially intimate group of women loves to recount how difficult their experience of pregnancy or childbirth was. It is a page-turner event in their life, and they do not find many people with whom they can recall or share those memorable moments.
A professional group talks about difficult bosses, and how they ended up quitting the job or seeking a transfer.
On one occasion, I shared my experience. Trade union leaders had got me posted to HR in the belief that I’ll be a puppet in their hands. The turn of events where I challenged their unfairness or foul play took them by surprise.
The bigger surprise was the response I received from the female audience - I was immediately labelled as being manipulative and dangerous. They could not digest the fact that I wielded sufficient power to change HR policies in a region considered difficult in terms of industrial relations.
Why do we see strength as positive, and power as negative?
Is it because power is associated with evil?
Do we not need power to change things for ourselves and the sisterhood - in a positive way?
Can we live in isolated bubbles and achieve success? Do we not need the ecosystem to function in a manner that gives us more freedom and decision-making power?
We need law and lawmakers to go with us.
We need organisations to devise policies conducive to our growth.
We need the social milieu to support us, rather than challenge.
We need media to portray us in the manner we want.
How are we going to achieve this without a voice, a personal brand and being thought leaders?
Why will any social, economic, legal or political system support us, if we choose to remain invisible and silent?
WHAT DO WE DO WITH POWER?
We consider the state in which our grandmothers lived as primitive.
Our grandchildren will label our lifestyles as being primitive.
Society is moving towards gender-agnostic structures, but at a very slow pace. We need to accelerate the process. We need to lay strong foundations for our daughters to live free.
Only then will we reach a stage where we debate on ethical use of power.
As of now, if we are not able to help ourselves, how do we perceive ourselves as harming others?
FOCUS ON LEVERS, RATHER THAN THE CROWN
We need influence.
We need acceptance.
We need a thought process.
We need a plan of action.
And we need levers to move things around us to our advantage.
Drop the guilt, and move on with life. You are powerful, only when you eliminate guilt.