“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” – Nelson Mandela
From the year that brought us the great resignation, a whopping 4.5 million people in the U.S quit their jobs in the last quarter of 2021 alone. Becoming a ‘corporate dropout’ no longer has the stigma attached to it that prevailed in a pre-pandemic world.
According to the latest Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey, a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women in corporate America were even more burned out than they were the year before—and increasingly more so than men. Despite this, women leaders are still stepping up to support employee well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, but that work is still not getting recognised.
Why Women Work
Studies show that women want more than just a ‘9 to 5’. They are more likely to stay in a subordinate role or drop out, in order to make a real difference. Women would rather leave or not take a leadership role, if it means playing ‘office politics’ or potentially being even more burned out.
Why Women are the Missing Link in Corporate
We have been fortunate in the last 12 months to witness a new emerging feminine power with inspiring leaders such as Jacinda Ardern, Christine Holgate and Grace Tame. Their femininity isn’t diminished and their power is clearly expressed. This is the essence of ‘balanced empowerment’ that women bring to the table in business when they come from their natural place of feminine power.
‘Balanced power’ is what’s missing from our organisations and parliamentary offices today that is so desperately needed if we are to avoid more women dropping out of corporate altogether.
Women Breaking Barriers in the Business World
Despite the obvious ‘gender gap’, women are making incredible achievements in the business world. We have come a long way from the ‘old boys club’ approach to business that dominated the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.
During her appointment as chief executive officer of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi became an ‘invaluable role model for women in business’ according to Forbes. She pushed for more diversity and public dialogue about the difficult choices women are forced to make in pursuit of their careers.
Escaping Cuba at 5 years of age in 1967, Geisha Williams became the first woman of Latin descent to head a Fortune 500 company, PG & E. She dedicated her feminine leadership power to driving the company toward renewable energy solutions.
Beth Ford, chief executive of Land O’Lakes, is the first publicly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company and is a powerful role model in business for the LGBTQ+ community.
My Dropout Story
My journey is one of a corporate dropout who experienced the rigours of corporate life in a male dominated industry, with no personal strategies to cope with the immense pressure to be perfect and fit in. My physical and mental health took a severe hit and I burned out.
After a 16+ year legal career, I walked away from everything I had fought so hard to achieve, and retreated to India to ‘Eat-Pray-Love’ myself back to wellness. I studied with masters in the East learning powerful practices that restored my mental, physical and emotional health. I resurrected my career, reinvented my life but this time founded on my feminine power.
Since leaving the corporate world back in mid 2008, I have gained many insights into the mentality of female corporate workers and the challenges and glass ceilings women still face today in their careers.
In late 2021 I was approached to take part in a multi-authored book showcasing the stories of 20 women who found their passion and purpose and rose to the top after leaving their corporate roles.
It has been a wonderful opportunity to meet so many other fearless women who have taken the unconventional road in their career paths.
Corporate Dropouts shares the inspirational stories of women who took the traditional route of a corporate career only to realise that the 9-5 wasn’t for them. These courageous leaders threw it all in and embarked on the journey of starting their own business and building a life based on their terms. In these stories, they share the ups, the downs and the in-betweens on their journey from corporate dropout to successful CEO.
In the book I share my story of how I went from’ burnout’ to ‘bliss’ and transformed my life from one that was literally killing me, to one that supports me to thrive. I also share my top strategies to help more women to do the same.
Here’s a sneak peek of my chapter…
Climbing the Corporate Ladder
Not making the grades to become a doctor, I decided on the next best thing, law. My “careers teacher” laughed in my face. “You can’t do that, you’re a woman,” he sniggered.
I’ll show you, I thought defiantly at him.
Hailing from a working-class immigrant family, I drove myself to become the best of the best. I worked my way up the corporate ladder as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer, making it to the top law firms in the UK and subsequently Australia, after emigrating in late 2000.
Often the only woman in a room full of men, I would typically be mistaken as the secretary. I battled daily with severe perfectionism and people-pleasing. Feeling like a fraud, I worked myself harder and longer than everyone else believing one day I’d be “found out” and sent packing.
To win my seat at this male-dominated table, I took elocution lessons, cut my hair short, wore flat boots and trouser suits, swore a lot and went for beers with the boys most nights.
At the height of my sixteen-year legal career, I was leading trillion-dollar deals, working twenty-two hour days and flying around the world business and first class.
It came at a cost.
From the outside looking in, I’d made it. But this success brought me misery. I had sacrificed who I was at the altar of my career.
I became an emotional wasteland. Burned out and depressed. Suffering crippling panic attacks, chronic food intolerances, I dropped 19 kilos, and was in and out of hospital almost every other week, for over four years. The traumas of my childhood were catching up with me fast. The road I was on was about to run out …
The Pathway for Women to Change the Corporate Game
As women leaders, executives and entrepreneurs we need to stop trying to ‘fit in’ to a man’s world and instead create our own authentic environment to work in that serves our natural feminine qualities.
We must rethink what up-levelling the corporate game means to us. It’s about compassion over competition; relationship building over demoralising; morality and integrity over deception; a public spirit over manipulation and coercion.
To do this, we have to overcome our negative self-talk, over-thinking and internal anguish that holds us back.
A woman’s perspective is what’s missing in the corporate world. Are Women Cut Out for Corporate? It’s not that women are not cut out for corporate. We are simply cut from a ‘different’ cloth. One that is inclusive, embraces diversity, equality, collaboration and support.
We need to change our own inner dialogue that has us telling ourselves our greatest qualities are ‘soft skills’ or a ‘weakness’ and embrace them as our superpowers.
To discover your feminine leadership power – Accessing Your Feminine Leadership Power
Holistic Leadership & Women’s Empowerment Expert
Speaker | Author | Mentor | Retreat Facilitator