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gender and career management

get rid of the "feel like a fraud" syndrome, fake it till you make it and sit at the table. Those where the key issues I addressed on the 8th of March, when Prof. Valérie Rosoux invited me to talk to the students of her International Negotiation class (UCL) about my experiences regarding gender and career management. I share a summary in this story because I'm happy and proud to feel comfortable about running my career as a woman.

you're not a fraud

feeling like a fraud is that general feeling that you don’t belong somewhere, that you’ve fooled people into thinking you're more competent and talented than you actually are and that it won't take long before the fraud is uncovered. Those are thoughts I had really been wrestling with for years, until I discovered that it was actually a syndrome. Meaning that I was not the only one to feel like that, to think that about myself. The effect of the discovery was an instant change: what had been a strong belief for years suddenly became a memory. I guess it's not that easy for everyone. I can only encourage those - women and men - who recognize it to find their way to stop the effects of the syndrome. It could be part of a coaching too :-)

fake it till you make it

getting rid of the fraud syndrome is closely linked to an advice that I was given during a personal development programme: "fake it till you make it". Again, I had never imagined that it was ok to do such a thing but I relied on the tip and it led me to another change in the direction of more self confidence. The equation is easy: if I'm not a fraud and I know my goal, it will better serve me to at least pretend that I feel like the goal is within my reach than to do the contrary.

it now feels strange to discuss those two things in a gender related article. But I must say that at the time I first learned about them, they felt right to me as a woman. To say it otherwise: I saw more women struggling with the fraud syndrome and more men faking it till they could make it. And the best thing about my discoveries was that I had never realized that I, the modern woman born at the end of the seventies and totally ignoring the gender issues, could have fallen in such a basic trap. But I had. I had been doing things differently because I thought it was how I needed to be as a woman. As it limited my strengths, I found it imperative to get rid of it.

sit at the table

and that's when I read Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In".There's one sentence in that book I will never forget: "women need to sit at the table, men need to sit at the kitchen table" (at least, that's how I recall it). Struck by thunder and lightning again. But this time because it was exactly what was going on in my life and exactly what I considered to be the necessary basis for me to continue to be able to have the career and the family life I want. Luckily for me, so does my husband.

around the same time, the lean in movement worked on this action called "what I would do if I were not afraid", showing pictures or short movies of women finishing that sentence. For me the answer was: "If I were not afraid, I would expand my family with a third child, although it might never appear to be the good moment to be pregnant when you just started a new business, when you are self employed, when you are in this or that stage of your business' development". Kind of a big decision I might have been afraid to take if I had ignored what I now call my 3 rules of success!

happy feminist

today, I'm happy to call myself a feminist, because I discovered that it still makes sense to raise awareness about gender specific issues as they come up in 2016. I can look back at a career that started as a single woman, evolved to a married woman with children in a "stable" job to my current situation of being an independent business owner, fully developing her business while being pregnant with a third child, having a husband who is working full time and two other children under the age of 5. The lucky thing for me is that what could be seen as growing "difficulties" (pregnancy and children, not to name them) happened at a time when I was better informed and aware of the fact that I didn't need to limit myself because of those aspects of my life. So I keep running my business, enjoying my family life and dreaming about the future in the full awareness that I'm a women. I am proud of that and I hope my short speech in front of the students earlier this yea helped those who hesitated realize that if there's a gender issue, it's one that we can handle if we follow some simple rules.

charline desmecht

must read (or read again): Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In.

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