Tips on being successful as a woman

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen of London, Ont.: A successful woman who has inspired columnist Michele Boyce. (Photo: Wikipedia)
NDP MP Irene Mathyssen of London, Ont.: A successful woman who has inspired columnist Michele Boyce. (Photo: Wikipedia)

By Michelle Boyce
LGBT Perspectives columnist

LONDON, Ont. — I’ve transitioned to a woman, now what?

As women our challenges are different, as should be our solutions.  I have spent years interviewing women for my radio show, Between the Margins.  Delving into the research and personal experiences of successful women from around the world, I have learned a great deal on the subject.  I have interviewed countless “life coaches” and professional speakers on the subject.  Most of these run around teaching women to look for a successful man, and mimic what he does.  Nothing can be farther from the truth, and the disservice these people are doing to young girls and women needs to be rectified!  Spending the first 30 years of my life emulating “what men do,” I can tell you I’m an expert on that particular subject.

Timing needs to be right

Men, unfortunately, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about life planning, from a family perspective.  A male family law attorney once summed it up to me.  He said, “If my wife ever divorced me, I would never be able to win custody of my kids.”  That is a fault of society that has exempted them from the responsibilities of parenting in a hands-on, day-to-day way.  Women tend to be more maternal, and let’s face it: someone has to actually incubate babies or this whole society thing comes rapidly to an end.

In my own life, I raised my first child within my business.  I had a chain of retail computer stores, and in my main office I had a small apartment where I could raise my son.  I integrated my parenthood with my business and they were inseparable. I sold computers with my son on my hip, held meetings in my office with him in his play pen and my schedule was spent balancing play time, nap time, and work.  My sister worked for me, both helping me raise my son, and helping run the business.  They were intertwined.  When my second child was born, I found it impossible to co-join the two children and my business life.  I overextended myself, and being a mom ruled when something had to go.  At that point I was operating nine and a half companies on an international level and I walked away to be a stay-at-home mom.  I did so in a complete break-down: trying to be too much in both worlds cost me dearly, and it could have been avoided with proper planning taking in account my goals of career and family.

We do our daughters a disservice when we put too much value in either the role of parent, wife, and homemaker or career business woman.  A successful woman can be one, the other or both at the same time.  We need to understand ourselves, our goals on both the career level and the family planning level.  I interviewed Peggy Sattler, who was just elected provincial MP in London West.  She has intentionally taken career positions that have allowed her to raise her family, and be successful.  She stayed seeking a provincial or federal seat in politics, because she knew the demands on that position would not have been compatible with her goals as a mom.  Once her children were older, she moved into that role because the timing was right for her and her family.  She planned with both roles and goals in mind and was successful.

Create a forum to deal with emotions

As women, one of our strengths is being attuned to the emotions of the people surrounding us.  We understand how hormonal chemistry alters our mood, and we can use this as our advantage.  The accusations thrown at us of being too emotional or emotionally attached to a project or idea is all too commonplace.  Every woman in an authoritative position has been labeled a “Bitch” when exhibiting power and authority.  When addressing and confronting these stereotypical situations on a day-to-day basis, we again get labeled as putting too much weight in how people feel, rather than getting the job done.  Setting up meetings where the agenda is emotional health and well-being helps keep office morale at a high and gives us a forum to use our people skills for the betterment of all.   Emotional well-being is a crucial part of performance in a workforce and our communities.  Women tend to be the negotiators, and healers of our society.  Using the same recognized skill sets that make us leaders of our household also make us leaders in the career world.  Especially in politics, teaching, social service, etc., where taking care of people is prominent in the field.  Rather than playing the game, we as women need to change the board the game is played on.

Don’t be like men

Since the ’70s and the dawn of the wave one feminists, we have been told we are no different than men.  This has given power to the male side of the race and erased all the power that we contain as women.

We have all had the woman in power that pretends to be like a man.   One of the first things you notice is they are completely miserable and unhappy.  The next thing that is probably the largest disservice to all women is they tend to be unreasonable, unjust and untrue to themselves.  I tend to use Justice Marshman as a prime example.  She is a female judge in the Superior Court and avoids decisions that could be construed as “because she is a woman” even when that is the right decision to make.  She is known in family court to rule in the favour of the breadwinner of the family, counter to most of the other family court justices.  She sees the person, typically the man, who makes the income in the best position to take care of the children.  Like most family court justices, she rules by her own experience.  The value system that she seems to favour is one that looks like herself.  She is a woman very stuck in a man’s world and very much seems unhappy, miserable, and no one wants to stand before her and argue their case as she is seen as irrational in her decision-making.

Woman in such situations are seen as gullible, able to be manipulated, and untrustworthy.  When you are pretending to be something or someone you are not, it is impossible for you to been seen by your peers in a positive light. These women always find themselves being second-guessed or questioned in their decision-making, and are continuously under fire.  This leaves them more a captive to the letter of the law rather than the flavour of it.  When you are looking to the strong men around you as a model, it gives them power over you.  You tend to value their opinion over others, even when you should be questioning it.  After years of working in the service of the trans community, I can tell you the pitfalls of pretending to be someone you are not!  It is never a healthy approach for yourself or those around you.

Don’t prop up your peers

We are taught as women to never take credit for our work or stand our ground.  We start every opinion with an explanation first and usually quoting someone else to give power to our words.  When you have an idea, put it forward and leave it to others to come up with the questions.  We as women are always questioned more than our male counterparts.  In the saving of time, we tend to attempt to answer all those questions before they are asked.  Unfortunately, it comes off as unsure, and then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where there are more questions.  The hardest part is to be OK with your opinion not being heard.  Sometimes others don’t see it the same way you do.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t correct, but their experiences differ from yours.  There is value in being correct after the fact, when things go wrong.  You don’t have to always win to win.

Leadership is crucial (sometimes called mentorship)

Having other people willing to speak well of you is crucial to success.  To be successful you need an entire network of people with you in the journey.  Success is never created in an individual silo.  Marginalized people tend to sabotage their leaders, and women are no exception.  To get ahead as a whole, we need to be able to prop up our peers without anything tangible in return.  In this way we as a community get ahead.  Seeing success in one of our own should not invoke jealousy, but pride.  As you get ahead you also need to mentor those behind you, bringing all you can up to your level much in the same way climbers will scale a wall.  When one climber succeeds in getting ahead, they set the safety lines so those behind can climb with ease.  I’ve often been surprised by the fact that most Human Resource departments are staffed by women, yet most of the people hired by that department are men.  We as women need to value ourselves as women!

I completely reject this concept that women are required to compete or enter the male realm. Women need to reorganize the world, career positions and do what we do best! LEAD! Women do not need to “do it the way men do,” we need to throw men out and bring honesty, sincerity, compassion and reason to the throne.  Amazing local female politicians like Irene Mathyssen, Peggy Sattler, and Theresa Armstrong have shown us we don’t need to behave as men to succeed!  We don’t need to play the game, we need to change the board the game is played on!


“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey


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