As a woman who works in the technology industry, you can imagine that I've found myself outnumbered in my fair share of board rooms. Often I've received questions of how I've responded to the lack of respect that comes with being the only female in the room. However, I've simply never thought anything of the difference in gender. For me, everything is based on performance.
From the start of my career I rooted myself in confidence that transcended my outward differences that were obvious amongst those of us in the boardroom. Don't get me wrong, nothing was handed to me at any point in my career. It was simply instilled in me to work relentlessly for whatever I wanted.
In most industries women are severely outnumbered, but that doesn't mean we bow out of the competition. Rather, we take charge of the conversation and spur impactful necessary dialogues without fear. As a woman who finds herself outnumbered in the leadership levels of business, I have to take charge and lead with bold honest confidence. This requires having respectful conversations within the workplace.
Taking part in issues that are pivotal and essential for women today is our responsibility as leaders in the workplace. As women, we need not be afraid of backlash that could come as a result of differences of opinion. The key, in fact, is to not be afraid. If what you're discussing and fighting for as a woman for women is something you believe to be right, fight for it.
Taking part in issues that are pivotal and essential for women today is our responsibility as leaders in the workplace.
It's even more essential now than ever to take part in conversations within our world. Whether those conversations are rooted within the boardroom or transcend themselves to the media, we are essential players in the success and history of our communities. If you happen to be the only woman in a male dominated workplace, you've accomplished a significant achievement. You now have a responsibility to lead by example. Your leadership should be a reflection of the issues you hold dear, thus your narrative needs to be heard.
In an era that continues to evolve, being honest and bold in the face of such change is essential. Simply because the media shows a male driven narrative, doesn't mean that as women we have anything less to offer. Owning the conversation is imperative, don't sell yourself short on the basis of something as basic as your gender. I feel that I've thrived in the workplace because I've always been authentic and unafraid of any hard work. Hard work is where the fun is, after all. Most importantly, owning our own voices is our responsibility.
When taking part in conversations in the boardroom or in the media, learn to disagree with tact. To receive respect comes by first giving respect. The best leaders and employees alike are those that can be nice to people, regardless of differences. This does not mean that you have to be friends with everyone, but you should start from a platform of respect. Along with such is the importance to encourage others in the workplace to express their opinions. Again, as a woman in a leadership role you're a direct example for men and women in your business. Encouraging other women through your actions is another form of expression.
Courtesy Of Rhonda Vetere, photographed by Studio 5600
The big takeaway is that regardless of what field of work you're thriving in, or what worldly situation you're amongst, you have not only the right but the distinct responsibility to take part in discussions that affect you as a person. Separate the gender stereotypes from your identity, and act simply as a human that has a desire to be involved in the decisions that directly impact you. Women need to be bold and let me reiterate, unafraid as they conduct themselves in the world. Live your life with bone deep confidence that radiates outwards. Your eagerness to join discussions in and out of the workplace only further demonstrate your unapologetic authentic self.
To be a successful woman in any avenue dominated by men, you have to carry an attitude lacking fear and soaked in confidence. Being prepared for anything eliminates the need for fear. Try your hardest to place as little emphasis as possible on the difference in gender between you and your co-workers. You're all professionals trying your hardest to perform your best daily. Your gender doesn't affect your ability to think, create, or excel in any way at all. If anything, you're better for the tenacity that we as women have built within us. Remember, keep the fire in your belly and keep your focus on results not gender.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."