We all have skills and tools that we use to further our careers. Studying to get additional degrees or working extra hours to get a promotion are just two of the many ways that are proven to help create career advancement and success. However, there is another tool that is overlooked, undervalued and sometimes flat-out rejected in a work setting: intuition.
Men and women (especially women) are taught to ignore the irrational and unpredictable world of feelings in order to compete in the workplace. We are told that business and emotions don't mix, and in some cases that is very true. There is a time and a place for emoting, and very rarely is that moment in a presentation, interview or company meeting. However, the problem is that most people, while striving to maintain professionalism, shut all of their emotional antennas down – including the deeply powerful tool of intuition. And when this happens, they miss out on the ability to use their gift of intuition to elevate their careers and propel them forward.
Photo Courtesy of The Balance
You see, emotions are inextricably attached to intuition. Our empathic abilities are directly related to our openness to emotional energy. I am not suggesting that we all drop our defenses and cry or rage spontaneously in the workplace; instead, I am suggesting that we intentionally begin to have more of an internal awareness of our emotions throughout the day or in special circumstances. Would you even consider turning off your spellcheck feature before you turn in that important proposal or brief? Then why would you not check in with your gut during a job interview or during an important pitch to a client?
If you are more mindful about listening to your intuition in key moments, you can jump ahead or avoid a pitfall more easily than your colleagues. Giving your intuition a "seat at the table" in your decision making doesn't just happen. It requires intention, mindfulness and a willingness to be still enough to get in touch with your emotions in a work setting. Add checking in with your intuition to your to-do list around any work activity, and you are guaranteed to create better results in your career.
Here are my top five workplace moments where I suggest tapping into your intuition:
1. Job interviews
Don’t just try to impress; notice how you feel the minute you walk through the door. Is it warm and inviting, or cold and quiet? Sometimes we are so preoccupied with winning the "dream job" that we aren't noticing our gut sending signals. How you physically and emotionally felt in an interview or a potential workspace should weigh just as heavily in your decision-making process as what is in the offer letter.
2. Choosing your workplace confidants
We all need to pick our mentors, work friends and coaches to thrive in any organization. Just because someone is in a position of authority above you or says they are going to help you doesn't mean you should trust them with your career path. Check in with yourself. How does each of your colleagues make you feel? Sometimes it's the demure, 25-year-old veteran administrative assistant who really knows who to trust and who really has the respect of the C-suite.
3. Pitching that important client
You have finally landed a meeting with that huge potential client, and you’re willing to go to any length to show her that you are the right person for the business. Preparation is important. Research is important. But when you are delivering that perfect pitch, are you simultaneously listening to your intuition? How do you feel in the meeting? Is she responding warmly or staring through you? As you present, are you feeling closer to her relationally or further away? Don't drone on in the wrong direction. Use your emotional radar to quickly course correct a disastrous presentation or to keep on track and knock it out of the park!
Photo Courtesy of Hello Beautiful
4. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
As you grow into positions of authority, the decision-making gets tougher and tougher. When you are the boss, by the time a problem hits your desk there are likely few choices left in terms of how to handle the issue. If you've weighed the pros and cons for each answer and there is no clear winner, go to your intuition. Close your eyes and imagine you have made one of the choices. Now notice how you feel in that scenario. You will always feel a little better or calmer with the right choice. The right choice never makes you feel worse.
5. Should I stay or should I go?
You finally called that bothersome recruiter back. He is painting the most glorious picture of an opportunity he wants you to consider. If you actually get to the job interview phase of this process. If you are not even sure that you want to leave your company...stop. Check in with your intuition. Why are you even considering leaving? There is an explanation. Are you not being challenged? Are you not getting along with your boss or a coworker?
If there is not a glaring reason, it could be something that you are in denial about in your current situation. You could be pushing through an underlying situation that needs to be addressed so it doesn't get worse. In other words, unconsciously ignoring your intuition. Notice your actions and look at what your emotional gut is trying to tell you. Your intuition can help you to address a problem so you can be happier at a great job, or finally, come out of denial to realize you are wasting time in your current position.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.