A holistic business blog by Lisa van Reeuwyk, Risks worth taking that build a better future that challenge gender norms

Gender norms and the impact on your bottom line

My life was forever changed at a networking event that took place at the uncivilized hour of 6:30 am. It was a speed dating style event where you deliver your elevator pitch to dozens of people as the sun rises.

One thing you should know about me is I’m an introvert and highly intuitive. When I network, I like to hand back and take in the room before I talk to people. As I sat there, sipping on my coffee watching the people arrive, I was struck by a lightening bolt of clarity about gender norms. a truth so obvious that I feel foolish for not noticing before. I’m taking in this blatantly obvious contrast in gender norms for the effort, time, mental bandwidth and expense in how cis gender men and women invest in their appearance in order to be seen as professional.

The Women

Curled hair, full make-up, eyes dusted in imposter syndrome, their best people pleasing smile planted on their face, dripping in accessories and some really uncomfortable shoes.

The Men

Showered and ready to go after applying some deodorant, a wrinkle free golf shirt, some really comfortable footwear that allows them to run away from any threat and they confidently walk to the heads of the tables where they are used to sitting.

It got me thinking, as I do, about the inequity of gender norms at work. Pay gap, sexual orientation, disabilities, ethnicity and education aside, women could be investing these resources of time, energy, mental bandwidth and money into avenues that pay real dividends. From long term financial planning, real estate, on-going education, wellness services or a much needed vacation, all investments that foster growth.

I thought a lot about why.

Let’s be honest, our expertise and skillset aren’t connected to our beauty routine, yet we live and work in a world that values the external and youthful beauty norms. Winding the clock back, we can see how gender norms have deep historical roots dating back to a time when societal roles and expectations were starkly divided along gender lines.Early workplace sexism was fueled by the belief that women were physically and intellectually inferior to men, leading to the establishment of gender-specific job roles and pay disparities. Legal and societal norms perpetuated this discrimination, with women struggling for decades to secure equal rights, fair pay and opportunities in the workforce.

While significant progress has been made, sexism still persists in various forms today, highlighting the ongoing need for gender equality initiatives and cultural shifts in workplaces worldwide.

It can feel risky to play by our own rules.

We worry about being overlooked, excluded or judged yet, when you stand tall in your value and start to take risks, like starting a business with a profit margin that supports people along with profits, we co-create new gender norms with the influence and affluence that comes with success.
Personally, after this lightening bolt moment, I decided that I could make some changes. Women and others in marginalized groups are left living a paradox where in order to make meaningful change we must work within broken systems so we can take seats at the tables where important decisions are being made. This also means we are inadvertently propping up the very system we wish to dismantle.

A few tips to work the system and simultaneously dismantle it

  1. Fill up your brain with interesting information by listening to podcasts or audiobooks while getting ready.
  2. Look where you can simplify or slash your beauty budget and re-allocate those funds to long term savings, on-going education and vacations.
  3. Wear the shoes that feel good and look good. I stopped wearing shoes that hurt my body (and cost me even more money in trips to the chiropractor.)
  4. Women put a lot of effort into their appearance so continue complimenting them on how they look, while also saying things like:

You are amazing.
I feel amazing after spending time with you.
You have such amazing ideas, you have such an incredible mind.
The world needs more people who think like you.

While how well our brains work has no correlation to our beauty budget. The risks I’ve taken have paid massive ROI in my life and I know that the more awareness we all have in how gender norms, we can plant seeds of meaningful change. When we support a system that asks us to invest in corporate bottom lines and billion dollar beauty industries over our own standard of life and education, we are not the winners.

What risk can you take to stand tall in the truth of who are and spectacular gifts that you have to offer, and how can you turn that lens onto those around you?

If you’ve grown to a place that feels quite different from where you started, imposter syndrome can set in  know you need some support, guidance, encouragement and expertise to take your needs, dreams & desires to the next level, I would be honoured to hear more about your vision.

You can schedule your free Discovery Consultation with me here to discuss private or group business coaching or private sales training.

Two blogs that might interest you:

Flip the Script on your Elevator Pitch

Meaningful Networking – Ask THIS instead

Keep going, keep growing,

Lisa van Reeuwyk