Madhu Einsiedler

To fit in, or not to fit in? How should women in business act?

I recently ran into a short film, called “Purl”, produced by Pixar (video below). The film features an earnest ball of yarn named Purl who gets a job in a fast-paced, high energy, bro-tastic start-up. She tries to fit in, but how far is she willing to go to get the acceptance she yearns for, and in the end, is it worth it?

With March 8 coming up, and marking International Working Women’s Day, I felt like sharing the thoughts below to all professional women out there. Do you relate? Has this happened to you? You’re welcome to share your feedback!

We all strive to feel respected, with a grounding sense of dignity. Problems only arise when we, as people try to gain respect and dignity through separation, through making us into ‘us‘ and others into ’them’. The tragedy is, that it works. We do feel respect and dignity when we separate us from others, in order to look down on ‘them‘. We as people still ‘play‘ this ‘game‘. We segregate into smaller and smaller groups, each longing desperately for respect and dignity.

To gain respect and dignity from my male colleagues I did exactly what Purl did. I knitted myself into something mirroring what I saw – bro behaviour and everything – to get accepted into the boy’s club. As a female business and personal coach the game is still on. I still enter rooms where I am the only female in the room. And yes, it still is necessary for me to be able to play the boy’s game. So that the men in the room feel respected and feel they can maintain their dignity. So that we can start working together. So that growth can happen. The basis of business and personal coaching is to actively foster the client’s sense of self-respect and self-dignity.

It took me quite a long growth journey to arrive at a point where – no matter in which shape I knit myself – my-self respect and self-dignity represent the core, the breath that carries anything I say and do. Because it lies within myself. I respect myself for who I am. I grew through re-covering, re-surfacing my own inner dignity.

Respect and dignity – it’s not a null-sum-game. Gaining it on the expense of other people will make us all poorer. Spreading it, sharing it,  because we found it within ourselves – makes life a better place.