Young Women Leaders

Archive for the tag “WIP”


Hello friends!
So I am back, and once again you can all thank wonderful Clara for sharing the video that inspired me to write this blog post 🙂 The video is made by Kaylee Commons and you should def watch it. Love it when people get into important subjects like these!

For starters, I do hate these articles or whatever we should call them, online, in women’s magazines, etc. that give the opinion of what men think of women’s clothing. Blargh. Couldn’t care less. And the thing I hate even more than these articles/advice/crap even existing is the fact that I READ THEM. Why??? Because I want to know what men think about how women dress? Do I really? NO.

You know, lately I have been thinking a lot about what we are taught as women growing up how to behave and how to dress. I remember trying to fit in during junior high and high school, wearing the ”right” things and trying to be like everybody else. During an orientation with the Young Women’s Empowerment Zone last year we had a group exercise where we got to explain to the other women about our 13-year-old selves, what we dressed like, what we thought about, the music we listened to and so on. We also got to write advice to ourselves at that time.
My 13-year-old self wore jeans and a sweater most of the time. I also had glasses and was really afraid not to fit in. One of the other girls at the Zone (who went to my high school) told a completely different story, where she had worn short skirts and low cut tops, embracing her own and new sexuality, feeling good about herself.
At that moment, I envied her because the advice I had given myself was “these people are mostly stupid, you will not be in touch with them in ten years and they do not matter” and I so wished that I would have been able to step out of my shell at that time and dye my hair purple, wear ripped jeans, or whatever I wanted at the time. I’m not sure what I would have wanted to do, but I just wish I would have gone bananas with it!
And I didn’t dare because of what I thought other people would think of me.

Back to the video, there are so many things that other people (men AND women) think of other people’s clothing, and it’s just stupid to collect random sayings of some jerks in order to make others feel bad about it and their looks in general. JC, as if many women don’t feel bad about their looks as it is! And as if men would be appropriate to give us advice on how we look. I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. The need for men’s approval in all kinds of situations is something we should erase from your mind. All you need is you and your approval. And maybe sometimes your awesome and supportive friends´ support (be they men or women).

Just wear whatever the fuck you want to, as Kaylee says, if you feel beautiful, you are beautiful. Maybe that should be a goal of the year? Wear more of whatever the fuck I want! And you too? That’s a YES!

Happy Saturday!
PS. You should check out Kaylee´s YouTube channel here, her Tumblr here, and her Twitter here.


Finding your worth, not as single, but as an individual

On my train ride from Stockholm to Uppsala this Sunday evening, I entertained myself by reading a newspaper left on the seat by somebody. I got to my horoscope, and in a second, my mood went from excited-inspired-happy to grumpy-annoyed-sad.

What did my horoscope say? Something along the lines of “your partner is not happy, you should give him/her some extra attention and enjoy your day.” BARF. What? I have no idea how many people from my sign are in relationships, but there and then I had no interest in continuing reading the paper, because my horoscope did not apply to ME ME ME. Definitely a silly reaction, but what I was really pissy about was the fact that I had let a stupid (and probs untrue) horoscope dictate my mood. Then I thought “why not dedicate a blog entry to the holy two-someness of society?” And here we are.

The below statements for society probably goes for all people, but since this is a blog for young women leaders, those are the ones I will focus on. Since I was around 12 I have dreamed of a two-some relationship, something I have only really lately begun questioning as a rule that society has dictated for me and that really has nothing to do with my happiness. Sure, I can complain about the lack of potential partners because of various reasons: too young, too old, immature, non-caring, stupid, etc.

But this is not really where the problem lies. You have heard this before: One cannot be happy in a relationship if one isn´t happy with oneself. Sure, I would love to meet that amazing person to open up my life to and share it with, but am I really ready with myself on my own to do that?

Probably not. When I get past that “I hate everybody who´s in a perfect relationship with their perfectness and cute apartments and children and blah blah blah” I see that not being able to be alone whenever the hell I want to scares me.

[I love you all my friends and family in relationships, I am happy for you, I really am, just FYI.]

There are a lot of great things being your one and only individual in life. Mostly egoistic ones, which is great. I strongly dislike the fact that because two-someness is the “right thing” according to our social norms and standards, I feel like a sad person being on my own and doing things only with me or with my friends.

You know what? Being your own individual ROCKS. Why? Because all I have to care about is really me. And there is no need to look for something else, my life should be at its best at every single point, so let´s embrace the situation NOW!

Reasons you, as a strong individual young woman leader, are perfectly happy:

–       You have all the time in the world to care about you, yourself and you. You (and I) can go home, not speak to anybody for 48 hours or more if you want to. We can invite whomever we want over for last-minute plans and make a great event out of it. We can go to concerts, events, dinners and such and only care to invite ourselves and a smashing outfit (have a body. Put a bikini on it).

–       We can go off traveling/studying/working wherever we want to (and our money allows us). And if we do not have enough money, we can make some and then naturally spend it all on ourselves. Because yes, that is what we deserve.

–       We have the chance to explore ourselves, mind, body and spirit, and figure out who we really are, and what the most important person in our lives (OURSELVES) love doing. Nobody but you can know you best, and knowing yourself takes time and effort.

–       Figuring out how to LOVE YOURSELF unconditionally. You is the best thing you´ve got. Love you. Explore what you love sexually, mentally, physically, emotionally.

I have seen a lot of discussions lately on the internet, social media, media in general etc. about relationships and so on. I even got on this dating site because I do long for a committed, equal relationship. Tried it out for a bit. It´s a learning experience but I´m not sure that´s IT for me.

Let´s face it: society and our own minds tell us that the ultimate goal for us young women is to find a mate and to live in holy two-someness forever and ever. But if that´s just not cutting it for me? Well, then I will become a lonely, single, sad person.

HELL NO. Let´s embrace being our one and only person. The most important person in our lives. In MY life. If somebody awesome comes along, that´s great. But I need to respect and love myself first and foremost. And you should too.

Love always,


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.

Fabulous, sassy, great Adele

Ok, this woman inspires me so much. Reasons:
– Her singing – no apologies – just soul, energy, feeling, strength.
– Her laughter, just pure and true!
– She´s sassy. Take some inspiration from her wits and have fun today!
– Fashion lives in her. She is a normal person looking so great in every way.

Looking good and being a woman

I am constantly aware of how I look to other people. It is a double bond as a woman – you have to care about the way you look in the “right way”, because:
1) If you don´t care about how you look you are ugly and not a “real feminine woman”
2) If you care too much, that is fake, you are shallow and not strong.

When I took my first class in gender studies (which is also about MEN, hence GENDER studies), we talked about how women always look themselves in the mirror, a window or any other thing that reflects her when passing one. Check yourself! It is not something I always think about, but I do check to see whether or not I look acceptable at all times. Why is this?
Well, women are expected to look good, and don´t we all want to feel attractive? We want to be loved and found loveable to others.

In college, I would often get the comment “you look so dressed-up today!” Unfortunately I was not able to take this as a pure compliment because this double-bond thing was hanging over me. Part of me was happy about the compliment because I do put effort into putting together outfits that I like and that I feel beautiful and strong in. But another part of me took the comments as something negative, as if I was trying too hard to be liked by others.

For me, putting thought and effort into making a good appearance is about respect for others around me, as well as attempting to show the best looks of myself to others. Swedish/European fashion is a bit different than the American.
At my college, it is more accepted to dress in sweatpants and a sweater, just rolled out of bed with your hair in a bun, than it would be at a university where I come from. None of them is wrong, and I guess I was more annoyed with the fact that I could not see myself relax and not care about the way I looked when going someplace where I knew people would see me.

During my senior year of college, me and my main partner in crime Al would talk about this a lot. We are both interested in fashion and looking good, but we wanted to make sure we did it for ourselves and not for somebody else. Part of being a senior in college is (as I have mentioned before) feeling that you are on your way someplace else, to greater and more important things. Hence, we could live out more, in a way that I don´t think we thought was possible before.
Part of growing up is realizing that what is inside you is what matters, but having a strong friend by your side makes it a lot easier.

So what did we do? Well, we left those typical skimpy college outfits behind and went to the local bar in t-shirt and jeans, discussing feminism and scaring the shit out of the frat boys who were there to play pool (more about that some other time). We talked a lot about Hillary Rodham Clintons awesome pantsuits. And yes, we dressed up as Michelle Bachmann and Hillary Rodham Clinton for Halloween.

Halloween 2011: Bahmann, Rodham Clinton. We brought Romney and Luigi along for the ride. Photo cred: Al

Halloween 2011: Bahmann, Rodham Clinton. We brought Romney and Luigi along for the ride. Photo cred: Al

We talked about make-up and decided that if it made US feel good about ourselves when we wanted to, well then it doesn´t matter if others think that it is a suppressor of women. I like the way I look, and there are things that make-up (such as lipstick) can do to make me feel even better about myself.
We used our jackets, dresses, high heels and pants as a way to empower ourselves and not make apologies for who we are and who we are meant to be. Some people may think that it is a weird way of empowerment, but as long as you feel like you YOURSELF decide what is good for you, then who the heck has the right to give two shits? NOBODY.

Dress the way you want but be sure to know the signals you are sending out with the way you dress, because it is a tool of power to be in charge of the way you look.

Graduation 2012: Me and Al plus Dr. Hudson, fashion in the house! Photo cred: Al

Graduation 2012: Me and Al plus Dr. Hudson, fashion in the house! Photo cred: Al

And remember, you look good.

Lasting friendships makes strong support

In Sweden we celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, so while everybody else is now busy with the stuff you do on the 25th I am hanging out in my pj´s, eating leftover smörgåsbord and watching the snow fall. Tonight is the eve of the returners in Sweden, those who have left their original city and moved elsewhere. We meet up in the bars and restaurants, catching up, hopefully running into some people we want to see and avoiding those we are happy to avoid.

I am meeting up with the person that has known me and been my friend for the longest time, Maria. We got to know each other during confirmation camp when we were 14 years old, and we have been with each other through thick and thin, crisis, moving, boyfriends, studies, family and basically everything else.

It is a very special type of friendship that forms when you have known a person for that long, in our case over then years (are we really that old???). I know her 14-year old persona and she knows mine, and we have known the people we have been and stopped being, and the person inside that never ceased to exist.

The thing with such relationships is that I don´t have to doubt that she really likes me, I mean she´s been with me for this long! 🙂 We have seen the good and the bad happen, and with this deep friendship there are many things that are easier to accept with each other I believe. I don´t get annoyed with her as easily because I know her and her background, the events that made her who she is and what she has done in her life. Rather, I appreciate all of that.

In times of trouble she has been there, and she´s never farther than a phone call away (even though we sometimes play phone tag for weeks) when I am feeling down or need support. She manages to make me think new thoughts just because she has another perspective and she knows me well enough to be able to give me concrete advice.

The deep and lasting friendships can handle that we don´t see each other for months at a time. But we have a core together, memories together, and the ambition to really make something in life that unites us.

If there is one thing a young woman in leadership needs, I think it is the friends, the sisters, the forgiving , accepting and inspiring people around us that supports us when we fall, inspire us when we are out of thoughts and hold us when life is too rough for us to handle.

And you know what? They look good too. This is us, summer of 2010.



How to be kind to awesome women that annoys you

Sometimes I am surprised by how much it annoys me that I dislike another woman. Look, other people that are annoying through and through I have no problem not caring about, because I have nothing in common with them, they´re not in my field, and hence I usually have no problem letting them be annoying and treating them nicely. 

But I have realized a scary part of my own behavior with other amazing women. If they are much like me we become friends and we support and value each other. But if there´s something in our our personalities that clash I have a hard time avoiding becoming annoyed. 
This is jealousy, right? I see another fabulous woman, she is seemingly perfect, beautiful and funny. But I dislike her for no real reason. 

And inside myself I get even more annoyed with myself because it is hard for me to support this amazing woman. Be it she may not be my friend, but she is doing a helluva great job at what she´s doing. Those are women I would logically like to support and those are the ones I would technically like to have around me. 

So here´s my list of how to be kind to awesome women that annoys you:
– Get to know her better. Sure, she may be intimidating or you think you won´t like her, but in my experience, the more you get to know a person, the more you will get used to him/her and that will lead you to accept him/her. 
– Think of things you are great at. “Sure, I haven´t (insert cool thing other woman does), but I write great speeches/run fast like frick/I am great at making small talk.”
–  Consider things you can ask her to help you with and maybe you can exchange some knowledge (bc you probably know stuff she would like to know as well). Showing that you are interested in what she does and would like to learn will flatter the other person, she will let her guard down (if she has it up) and you can be more casual around each other. (I mean, let´s be honest, how happy are you not when people ask you to explain EXACTLY what it is that you do? Myself, I can talk for hours).
– Ask another friend for help on how to deal with the situation. I have found so often that my friends have another opinion of the person, and then that makes it easier for me to like them. 

More advice? Throw them my way!

And yes, you are amazing. And that other woman can be your friend. 

Why WIP?

This blog is called WIP it blog, something that WordPress suggested I use as a name since  WIP was taken. But why call it that?

In July 2011 I had returned from a few weeks in Sweden to my university in the U.S. I was about to start my senior year and was unsure of what to expect of my last year. The previous years had been great, but I felt like there was something missing. I had until then not been able to channel my passion for women´s leadership and developing skills.
I had also grown out of the binge-drinking hook-up culture that is the case at so many universities. And, most importantly, I had realized that many of my friends from previous years were just not people that I could develop together with.

During the summers at my university there are not a lot of people around, and you get to hang out with some unexpected people. Luckily, my mentor and friend Welkie arranged for me to meet two people that together with me would form WIP.
I had known Al and Lazoor in a shallow way from classes since we were all great students and Political Science majors, but for one reason or another we had never really talked.
Well, we spent an evening drinking beer on the roof of one of the dorms, and we began talking about problems young women face on a college campus.
At this time we were all safe enough in ourselves to honestly not give a shit about what people thought about us. We had finally realized college boys are not a lot to hang in the Christmas tree (yes there are good ones out there. Three per college and they´re all busy), that what we said in class was ALWAYS smarter than whatever that idiot in the corner said, and that we were actually on our way out of this place.

So we made it our mission to start an organization where young women could unite and talk about leadership issues, successes – to support and encourage and inspire each other.
We called the organization Women In Power, or WIP for short. Yes, it´s a sassy name, because we are sassy women. We wanted attention, we wanted to stir something up in the     male-dominated leadership world.
And a disclaimer: I love working with men – I would only love working with them more if there were more women up there making the decisions. End of disclaimer. 

Well, calling an organization WIP also leads to saying WIP it in many situations, because it´s even sassier. That´s where the name of this blog comes from and WIP it is what we did.
The below picture shows me, Al and Dr. Rhine, the head of the Political Science department, receiving her honorary WIP membership on our graduation day.

Ya look good,
HannaH + Aconk and Rhinestone

Margot told me I would be the new secretary general of the UN

IMG_20121105_201141And I was starstruck. Let me introduce Margot Wallström, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

I met her at a book event where she signed the book about her.

I asked her for advice on how to enter the world of working for women and she adviced me to volunteer. And the above mentioned during the taking of the photo.

YLG. Hanna

About “why this?”

it´s me again. I thought I´d write a little bit more about why I am so passionate about (young) women´s leadership.

Throughout my childhood and somewhat until this day I have been an insecure girl and young woman. As a child I was nervous about a lot of things: gym class, talking to the boys in class, performing in different kind of situations, talking to adults, any kind of sports I had to do, games we had to play (especially the ones called “fruit salad” and “gingerbread men”).
I think back and I think I was unrelaxed most of the time. When we had the annual evaluation meeting with my parents and my teachers, I was always told that they knew I had the answer to the questions, I just needed to raise my hand sometime so they could give me the chance to show my knowledge.
My dad even gave me a post it note to put down how many times I raised my hand every day.
Now, what did I do with that? Here´s the problem. I made three columns:
1) Number of times I raised my hand
2) Number of times I got to answer
3) Number of times I answered correctly

You see, I was so fixated with being RIGHT, and the reason I hardly ever raised my hand was because I was not 100% sure I was going to answer the question correctly. It makes me sad to think that 8-year old Hanna never really got to discuss things in class because she was too afraid of other people judging her for saying something “wrong.”

I´m still this way, I have a hard time asking questions because I´m afraid of sounding dumb. When I am in large groups and I feel uncomfortable I am quiet. I beat myself up on the inside when I think I have not done a good enough job.

But I am sure not many notice this. I have only told a few people about this, and I know I am good at keeping a facade up. And I know there are many other women out there like me, that are smart and beautiful and funny and witty and sassy, but not comfortable at all times to be themselves, because it is not what society expects of them.
What I really want is for women to feel like they not have to care about the expectations of society, but instead to take steps and make gains in field that they are interested in, no matter what they themselves look like, talk like or act like. I am reminded each and every day of the invisible (and sometimes visible) walls that exist in society, keeping women out or boxed in.

Young women need more imperfect, but in their own way perfect, inspirational role models.

HannaMe today

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