Young Women Leaders

Archive for the tag “leadership”

Is Beauty a Blessing or a Curse?

My American teacher and mentor posed a question to me this summer: Is Beauty a Blessing or a Curse? From time to time since then I have pondered this question and tried to look at it from different perspectives. A few weeks ago I texted a few friends and family members about this. Thank you Erika, mom, Simon for your input!

So, my first thought was that beauty is a blessing, but since my mentor is sharp, I knew the answer would not be that easy. Of course, when you have beauty/looks/attractiveness others will be prone to treat you better, right? (?) To a certain degree I believe that is true. But if a random person came up to you, asking you a question, wouldn´t it depend more on their kindness, smile, way of being polite affect the way that you would respond?

Still, knowing looks is the first thing that people see about you, it gets a good-looking person on the positive side at first. And a not-so-good-looking person is at a disadvantage. Maybe? And the first impression lasts, supposedly.

But it can be a curse too: I for one have prejudice against good-looking people. I become suspicious. Like “they have their looks and now they´re going to use it to get what they want.”
And it can be a barrier. I´m scared to talk to good-looking people! There, I said it! It´s scary to look at very good-looking people, just because of how they look. Why? Weird.
Beauty can also give unwanted attention, looks, catcalls, people just being interested in you because how you look. A shallow attention I assume.

(Rob Lowe basically says it´s crappy to be good-looking!)

And maybe others can´t see past your looks, thinking that you got where you are because you are good-looking, you can´t be sharp, can you? Is it a barrier to be good-looking in academia for example? You´re supposed to have glasses and not care about your looks, because knowledge is all you care about? You´re not shallow like that are you, because you´ve got your brilliant mind! I know there is at least two professor at my school that are always mentioned with the addition “he/she is so good-looking!” Why do we do that?

Nerdy girlSource: Piratecake

I guess kindness and honesty is just as important when talking to a person, maybe more important in the long-run. And once you get to know a person´s inside, those thoughts of looks disappear in some way. I mean, if you realize a good-looking person is mean, their looks don´t matter anymore. They become unattractive because of the way that they behave. A good-looking outside doesn´t really matter if you are ugly on the inside. And if you are beautiful within, your outside doesn´t matter as much, right?

But that takes some careful thinking about the way that they look and what they are actually saying and the way that they behave. And do we always think about that? And do we think about it differently for men and women? In leadership? I think women in leadership are expected to care more about their looks than men are. What do you think?


Being bossy



I agree with the above quote. It has been proven time and time again that girls get very little attention in the classroom compared to the boys. If you´re a loud and outgoing girl, you are less likely to be accepted for that, teachers take it much more seriously and you are told to be disturbing. The acceptance for boys being loud is much higher. Think back on your own time in school, remember how there was always a group of boys talking an playing around? They were accepted. If a girl behaved the same way she would be a disturbance. Society tells us this and it is not ok. I see this in myself as well, I am more likely to think that guys that talk out loud are funny and nothing to care about, while I do not have the same level of acceptance towards talking girls. But you know what? As long as I identify the problem in myself, I am on a way to change a pre-learned pattern. Think about it actively, how do you treat boys/girls and men/women differently. There are very few people who are not brainwashed by society on how we should behave.

Lead those leadership talented women into success by listening to them and respecting what they have to say.

So yes, I agree with the above mentioned quote. Also, I want all the quiet and shy girls to be seen and appreciated for who they are. If you conform to society´s general view of how a woman should behave (which I have done through most of my upbringing) you believe that there will be a reward for always being correct. But sometimes that behavior has a price; you will be scared of speaking up in case you will say something wrong, you will not wear crazy clothes out of fear that people won´t like you, and you will continue behaving in a way that will never get you in trouble, but never take andy risks and have fun either. 

So respect and listen to the quiet girls as well, sometimes we continue to tie the binds that were made for use by society, and that gets really hard to untangle. There´s no wrong or right way of behaving, I just wish that everybody would find their way, no matter what society tells them. 

How to NOT support your fellow women leaders

Once upon a time I worked for this youth organization in Sweden. I began becoming involved my second to last year in high school, and after my graduation I was hired as a kind of consultant/coach for the local organization in my hometown.

I may not have had the greatest grades in high school, mainly because I was very involved with this organization, leadership, events, recruiting, etc. I worked really hard, and during my time as a consultant I began realizing how hard, and how much I was not ever satisfied with what I did, how insecure I felt and how I kept it all inside because I didn´t want anybody to know (naturally). The atmosphere in the organization at the time really didn´t fit me either, but that´s another story.

What I also began noticing was that so many of the leaders I coached were women. They were very different, but also similar in some ways. They were high-achievers, ambitious and well, great in general. What they also often had in common was some guys that they lead that could not handle their leadership. I talked numerous times with young women leaders that, in official meetings, were talked back to in nasty ways by their male board members. They came in late to meetings, brought friends that didn´t belong there, talked behind their backs and sometimes did everything in their power to just work against their leader.

Look, I know that this happens, women and men do it both, but this pattern was clear: young men who had a woman leader worked against her, instead of working WITH her. These women were not afraid to take they argument, but what was really hard to work against was this kind of half-ass behind-the-back policy.

So I connected these young women presidents/leaders for a leadership group, to talk about their issues and to be able to network and connect with each other. I also invited a few women that had left the organization a few years earlier, thinking that they could probably look at the situation from a fresh point of view and encourage the women that were now in their previous shoes.

My idea was received in a positive way by these women, and at the first meeting most of the leaders showed up. I began by introducing the thoughts I had when initiating the group, and talked a little about my own experience as a young woman leader. In order to open up for talk about insecurities, I also mentioned the fact that I had felt insecure the previous year, that I didn´t always trust myself and my own potential. The meeting went well, and the participants shared similar stories and made connections with each other.

So far so good, but after the meeting, when the younger women had left, one of the older participants told me something that to this days still makes me angry. I forget her exact words, but it was basically something along the lines of this: “Hanna, I have always seen you as so secure and confident. I cant believe that you are so insecure on the inside. It surprises me, and that gives me a weaker image of you.”

Image(Above is a picture of me at this time of life. Yes, that is the face I wanted to make when I got this comment. Unfortunately it´s from a masquerade I went to another time).

SO… I had for once opened up about feeling insecure in myself, and in my leadership position because I wanted the women to know that we all struggle, nobody is perfect, and YOU CAN STILL DO IT. And then one of the more experienced women looked down on me for being upfront about it. I have carried this shitty comment with me for years and mentioned it to one of the other women I worked with in the organization a few weeks ago. She had a higher position in the organization than me, but the same woman had told her that she was basically weak for leaving the organization when she did. And she is one of the strongest, least shit-taking people I know.

I am not claiming that we should all go around and be lovey-dovey with other women leaders just because we are women. But what I am saying is that it is hard enough as it is to be a woman leader, and nothing good comes out of critiquing one another in that way. Constructive critisism is usually good, but even better is the support and understanding in vulnerable situations.

I think you´re great at what you´re doing.

Self-Compassion – something every leader needs


Photo: Dr. Kristin Neff, borrowed from self-compassion.org

Over the past two and a half years
or so, I have come increasingly aware of my own not-so-nice mental treatment of myself. I have always been ambitious, strived to do better and eager to learn new things. I am passionate about leadership and I know I have the skills to lead now and in the future. On one level, I am fully aware of this.

BUT on another level I am constantly judging myself, like I have witnessed in so many other young (and not-so-young) women around me. As I have mentioned before, during my childhood, I did not raise my hand in the classroom until I was absolutely certain that my answer was correct. This is something I still battle, even in college I could get upset (on the inside) when I answered a question incorrect.

When in a new situation with a potential boss, an interesting/attractive guy or with somebody I admire I sometimes become numb because I am so aware of what I am saying the entire time, and none of it seems to make sense. There´s a little voice in myself that is basically beating me up for not being smart, pretty, thin, funny, relaxed, well-dressed or [insert description of choice here] enough.

I´m pretty sure nobody notices this. Only my closest friends know this because of course I see this as a weakness, and I really don´t want people to know about this “flaw” of mine. I want them to see the facade that I put up instead.

So why then I am writing about it here? Because I know it is something that needs to be talked about. Again, so many young women leaders suffer in silence, beating themselves up for not being perfect, and this hinders their potential and quality of living. We miss out on opportunities because we are scared to make fools out of ourselves. We would do even better in school, organizations and at social events if we would not give to shits about what we and others think of us. It´s hard to admit to another person that we are imperfect, because the world expects us to be, heck, WE expect us to be perfect!

I have told a few close friends about this constant struggle with my beating and mistreating inner self. One of my dear friends sent me this book called “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.” Wow, that´s basically what I need! Ok, a book can solve no problems on its own, but I think the author, Kristin Neff, is doing a good job so far (I´m on ch. 2) in explaining the situation and offering pieces of advice on the way to improve your compassion for yourself.


For example, there is a test you can do at this website: http://self-compassion.org/test-your-self-compassion-level.html where you test how self-passionate you are, and there are different exercises you can use to work on this. Among them is writing yourself a caring and compassionate letter, talking to yourself, taking care of yourself like you would with a friend in need. I was amazed by the thought. I mean, I have been there for friends in need and done this many times, but I would never have considered doing it for myself. The task scares me, but I continue to plan my letter out. 

Leaders need to be compassionate, “and we must learn to treat ourselves as we wish to treat others” – Gloria Steinem. Leadership is not all about being sharp and strong and hard on those you lead, it is also about supporting and guiding others, and you can only do so if you can do it to yourself.

Finally, a video with Dr. Neff herself, go check out her website self-compassion.org and look around!

Much love from me to you.

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