by Judy M McCutcheon
In our journey towards success, climbing the proverbial corporate ladder and fighting to break the glass ceiling, women are faced with what could seem like insurmountable obstacles. Obstacles and challenges that test our resilience and determination.
For most women leaders, these challenges could be especially daunting as they navigate societal expectations, workplace biases, and personal trials. And for those with family obligations, the question of being able to balance family and work life seems to be ever-present.
The statistics show that women in leadership positions are leaving their jobs for various reasons; most notable among those reasons are bias, lack of support, unequal pay, and toxic work culture. Women want to work; they want to contribute, and they have contributed significantly to the growth of their organisations. However, many of our experiences at work resemble or evoke those feelings of trauma that we may have experienced, which causes many of us to shrink and want to remain invisible. Many women want to step into senior leadership roles, but the prospect of the psychological harm they may face on that journey prevents them from stepping forward.
In this article, I want to explore the role trauma plays in shaping the journey of women leaders. Trauma sounds heavy, doesn’t it? I am sure when you hear the word, it conjures up images of pain, suffering, and darkness. But the thing is: trauma isn’t only about what breaks us; it’s also about what makes us. Trauma can be a transformative force, propelling women toward leadership roles and shaping them into the strongest, most inspiring women leaders.
Trauma is an experience that profoundly impacts a person’s psyche and life. It can take many forms, such as childhood adversity, personal loss, or a toxic work culture. And while trauma is often associated with pain and suffering, it can also be a catalyst for personal growth and resilience. When women face trauma head-on, they often emerge stronger and more determined, equipped with valuable insights and skills that shape their leadership journey. One of the remarkable outcomes of trauma is the development of resilience. Women who have navigated traumatic experiences often possess a remarkable capacity to bounce back from adversity. This resilience is a valuable asset in leadership roles, as it enables women leaders to persevere through challenges, adapt to changing circumstances, and inspire their teams to achieve great things.
Trauma survivors often find the courage to lead authentically. In my journey, coming face to face with my trauma and healing has led to me being radically authentic in my leadership and in my dealing with others. Dealing with your trauma gives you the confidence to be true to yourself in leadership roles, even in the face of societal expectations and biases. Authentic leadership is powerful, as it inspires trust and loyalty among team members. Women leaders who have triumphed over trauma are well-prepared to face adversity head-on. They have learned to navigate complex and challenging situations, making them better equipped to lead their teams through crises and uncertainty.
Surviving and healing from trauma can be a powerful force that shapes the journey of women in leadership positions. It fosters resilience, empathy, authenticity, and a determination to overcome obstacles. Female leaders who have risen strongly from trauma bring unique skills and perspectives to their roles, enriching the leadership landscape and inspiring those who follow in their footsteps. As we celebrate and support women leaders, let us acknowledge the strength and resilience that healing from trauma allows women to bring to their leadership journey, my only other ask is that we create inclusive and empowering workplaces where women can thrive.
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Judy McCutcheon is the CEO of Go Blue Consulting and a Certified Leadership and Trauma-Informed Coach.