“Women are leaders everywhere you look, from a CEO to a housewife that holds together a home. Our country was built by women who stand alone” -Denise Clark
The number of women within leadership roles has significantly risen over the years. Women around the world have the opportunity to showcase their talents in roles that were non-existent 30 years ago. Nonetheless, there are still many barriers hindering female progression and there are many girls who are not aware of the challenges they may encounter.
I have written a letter, addressed to a future version of myself, acknowledging my achievements and other successes, but highlighting things I wish I had been advised on for my journey to the top.
Dear Future Noelle,
Congratulations on what you have accomplished so far.
You are now the owner of a successful organisation – working with young people and inspiring them to flourish in their passions and making a difference wherever you go. Making people aware of homelessness and creating opportunities for those who once did not have any. This dream was important to you and it is good to see that it is now a reality. You have been able to develop yourself over the years. With your growth in confidence, self-belief and appreciation of the abilities God has blessed you with, everything seems to be going perfectly well.
But the journey to the top was not so smooth.
You faced barriers you did not expect to encounter and there were many challenges you were not warned about.
Starting from the obstacles you faced not only as a woman, but more so a woman of colour.
It started with people mistaking you for the coffee maker or the cleaner, to having to bite your tongue to avoid fulfilling stereotypes of the ‘angry black woman’.
You attempted to understand the so-called ‘struggles’ of your co-workers, when you faced challenges of own, which no one tried to understand. Left feeling lonely and isolated, because no one looked like you.
Nobody understood the pain and the struggles.
You had to deal with your male counterparts doubting your abilities. Putting you down for what you believed in, but cheekily, claiming your idea as their own.
That was not all.
You were not told about the loss of excitement, the self-doubt that makes you consider and reconsider everything.
Or the difficulty of managing your finances, when deciding to start your own projects.
And the biggest one, the truths of the real world. It is a very harsh world outside of university.
So many things you were not told about, and you were left to discover for yourself.
You found it hard to adapt to the new environment and wished you had someone to guide you through the struggle.
You wish you were educated on the importance of networking and developing good rapport with others. Having connections would have made your journey to the top easier. You wish you were told, every obstacle is temporary and light is always present at the end of the tunnel. With this knowledge, you would have bounced back quicker from every failure you encountered,
You wish you were told, never to hold back on your ideas, because of what others thought. Learning to show off your skills and not worry about your confidence being perceived as arrogance. You could have developed self-love quicker and learnt to appreciate your ideas.
You wish you were told, never to limit yourself because you are capable of a lot more than you ever expected,
You could have had the courage to try different things.
You wish you were told, that it is okay to be different. Being unique is the best quality you can have.
You would have embraced your differences and avoided conformity.
You wish you were told, to never doubt yourself, trust in your instinct, as nobody can be a better version of you.
You would have had more faith when you needed it most.
Now that you have achieved the success you have inspite of the challenges and obstacles you faced, you want other young females to be aware of the things you did not know.
You want to guide, encourage and support them through the process of learning to believe in themselves.
And you hope they will one day do the same.
Supporting and encouraging the upcoming leaders that follow them.
Currently, I am alumni of the 2016 Powerlist Foundation and Deloitte Leadership Programme. Unlike the future version of myself in this piece, I have been fortunate to be given the required guidance to achieve my dreams and aspirations. The leadership programme taught me that there will always be barriers, but it is up to you to break through them. You need to maintain the right mind set and refuse to conform to society’s stereotypes of you. Powerlist Foundation provides you with the right guidance and support system to pursue any goal of yours.