While the world may be in a spin with collapsing economies, the end of dictatorships, threats of war and naturally occurring disasters, it could be easy to miss the subtle emergence of women in the western world. In this upheaval where our old and once safe supporting structures (such as our banking institutions and churches) disintegrate before our very eyes, it's women who are rising up amongst the destruction and redefining, in their own way, how they want life to be.
If there was ever a time for a woman to make a difference in the world, that time is now. As a relative newcomer to the UK I am luxuriating in the support and encouragement available to me as a woman and I'm gripping this opportunity firmly with both hands. No matter what a woman wants to do, or what interest she has, there is a plethora of advice, support, inspiration, information, guidance and education at hand. This comes from a variety of sources including networks, clubs, the media, memberships, services, presentations, workshops, personal development programmes and the like.
While one may argue that opportunity has long been afforded to women because of what our female predecessors have achieved through the feminist movement - we are educated, we make our own decisions, we can vote - that's not the opportunity I'm talking about. This opportunity is in the explosion of female-related support businesses, whose very existence are to assist women to create, develop, nurture and manufacture whatever it is they wish to do. The underlying philosophy of most of these businesses, typically run by women, is to encourage and motivate women to discover their potential and find fulfilment, whether they are a stay at home mother, a woman establishing her own business or a woman wishing to climb the corporate ladder.
I came to this country wanting to start my own business but I had no existing networks to build upon - no work colleagues, contacts or even old school or university friends. Salvation came in the form of women's networking groups, which have recently sprung up to ride the wave of female entrepreneurs and women business owners looking for support to achieve their business goals. Initially I tried the traditional male dominated networking groups but they didn't do it for me. It was all about gripping handshakes, hard selling and flamboyant self-promotion. I'm not saying any of this is wrong, but it's just not how women network. Instead the women's networks, run by women, appeal to a more feminine approach. Collaboration, advice and support are a natural part of each meeting, and in fact, nurtured. Learning and development is part of the agenda. Relationships are established over connections made during and after the event. Meetings are more inspirational than sales-orientated, and sales are made, but only once relationships are born.
In the media, there is no denying that women are the talk of the moment. We're newsworthy because we're out there doing things, we're speaking up and women have an interest in what other women are doing. Magazines like Psychologies acknowledge that women are redefining how they want to live their lives, so their aim is to inspire and evoke their readers whilst also offering practical strategies and advice. They are probably one of the first magazines in the UK who are more concerned with what a woman is like, rather than what she looks like.
While the 'feminist movement' wanted what men had, today the 'feminine movement' is all about what women have, and how women do things. Coupled with our openness, curiosity and a willingness to learn and research, niche-orientated businesses, again mostly run by women, are catering to these very women. They target mothers, women returning to the workforce after having children, women over the age of 50, women who want to do something once their children leave home, women who have divorced, women who juggle careers and family or women who want to plan for their financial futures. It's within these targeted, niche groups that women feel supported because the message is tailored to them. They are understood. Their needs are being met.
Women are more a part of this world than we have been for a long time because of the support and encouragement we now give each other and because we are out there creating what we want. Therefore, we are naturally bringing change to the world around us. For example, one young woman from the City told me that she jumped at the opportunity to set up a business with her colleagues as she could no longer take the closed-mindedness, the dirty tricks and the toughness she had witnessed in the City. In her new business she is focused on fundamental values and principles, which today seem almost old school, but to her are refreshing.
Many women I coach have a desire to make a difference in the world. They want to contribute, to bring about change and to make things better. They want to do something meaningful in their lives, and I believe it's in this meaning that change will be truly experienced.
During the September 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama prophesized that "the world will be saved by Western women". Will you one of them?
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