A few weeks ago we reported on a research article by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman about the confidence gap between men and women. Since the release of their findings discussions surrounding how best to empower ourselves and the women in our lives have been raging online, giving us all a chance to think about what it could be that makes us think less of ourselves than our male counterparts. Soraya Chemaly, who specialises in feminism, gender and cultural issues in her writings, believes that a key factor in our behaviour is our inability to use ten simple words:
“Stop interrupting me.”
“I just said that.”
“No explanation necessary.”
After becoming aware of the frequency of men interrupting and speaking down to her in her daily life, Chemaly decided to look into the matter further, only to find that the problem may be in our up bringing. While boys are encouraged to speak up in class, ask and answer questions and crack jokes, girls are encouraged to be polite, be good listeners and be silent. Even the television and films that we watch encourage this, with men receiving twice as much screen time on average than women. Learning to say the above ten words with confidence may be one way to begin to reverse these trends.
Nigeria has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, but a society that complex shouldn’t be defined by these negative events. If we take a closer look at Nigeria we are likely to find throngs of strong women taking to the business world. Reni Folawiyo is one of those women. As the founder of Alara, a luxury fashion store stocking both Western and pan-African brands, Folawiya is striving to create something new. “I felt that we needed something iconic that would change our city, change the way we see ourselves and also change the way the world sees us,” says Folawiyo, who turns 50 next year. Folawiyo not only aims to bring more high-end, Western fashion to Nigerian women, she also wants to ensure that African brands are able to reach the same standards of luxury. To do so, she is actively supporting local designers, ensuring their work is able to share the stage with some of Europe’s biggest names in fashion.
Just three weeks after moving from her home in Singapore, to Atlanta USA, JuE Wong lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. In an unfamiliar city with a new job running an entire health and beauty company, Wong describes the experience as “the most gruelling thing I’d ever endured.” Faced with the choice of staying or going home, Wong was drawn to the structure and stability her new job was offering her in a time of turmoil. Inevitably, she formed strong bonds with her colleagues who supported her as she pushed through her struggles, leading the company to success.