Claim Your Seat at the Table

For centuries, humans have been uniquely programmed to exclude others, no matter how much good they do in the world. So how are we expected to be game changers, world shifters and magic makers when there are obstacles in the way of our growth or progress? How do we break those glass ceilings and use our influence and positions for the betterment and good of society?

How do we claim our seat at the table?

When you’re opinionated, you are deemed as a trouble maker and should be silenced. When you have an opinion about certain issues, you know too much and you think you’re better than everyone else. When you celebrate your wins and successes, you are way in over your head you have an ego. When you are too quiet and reserved, you’re incompetent and add no value. It seems like no matter what you attempt, there are bystanders and critics waiting to shoot you down.

They often say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

But let I remember a place and a time in my life where I worked at an automotive organisation, suffering mental and emotional trauma at the hands of my former boss. Everywhere I turned, the walls closed in on me.

Even after unsuccessfully following the right channels to try and resolve the matter, I was left disempowered, belittled and my self-confidence was at an all-time low. That’s what corporate bullying does to you, especially fuelled by gender bias. I was faced with a decision to either guard my sanity for the sake of my then young son or to keep going.

I chose to leave with my dignity and integrity intact.

To me, having a seat at the table is about being at a place where influence and power is wielded and every woman or man takes it seriously if they want to participate.

Having a seat at the table is about choosing your tribe and choosing them well because they are the thinkers and the doers who will break you, challenge you, build you, uplift you and expand you.

Having a seat at the table also comes with great responsibility because history has demonstrated that so many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but are still too grateful to be present than to really shake things up.

Having a seat at the table is about making an impact in the spaces we find ourselves in, and bringing others up along the journey.

We all know of people who don’t have the courage to move forward and make things happen. And sometimes, when you occupy a certain position, it is your role to push them and help them flourish.

There is nothing exciting about being the “only woman” in a room full of testosterone. There is nothing exhilarating about being the “first and only” to achieve a certain accolade. The socio-economic landscape of most organisations is still male-dominated. And often times, we think it takes an executive title to empower us to take a seat at the table. And as the saying goes, “When women come together, incredible things happen.”

Claiming a seat at the table represents an opportunity to be heard and to make a visible difference. You have to take a seat at the table and then keep earning it. As we know, female representation at the highest decision-making positions is low in most industries. And most women aren’t volunteering their services and putting up their hands because we’re either too afraid, we doubt ourselves or we think the other species is better positioned for a certain role. But if not us, then whose responsibility will it be? I want my whole squad to reciprocate and celebrate with me because when it’s just you winning, you start experiencing envy, jealousy and unnecessary remarks because of the choices you made.

I realise that our paths will not be the same. We were created differently for a particular reason… some of us are in this world to be climbers, campers or quitters. It’s no wonder that over the years, many women simply pass up the opportunities for to take on challenging roles that may somehow have a negative impact on their family lives. So while some of us have ambitions of making money, sitting in those boardrooms or running those business, the generations behind us don’t realise that all this comes with heavy challenges which most are not built or prepared for. The things you experience on a day to day basis will either mould you or fold you. And the truth is, not everyone is not shaped for some cut-throat industries that demand your time, energy and sometimes, your peace of mind.

One of the most important lessons learned in my career is that inclusion matters. We get in life what we have the courage to ask for –– sometimes what we fight for. And we have to fight even harder to be at the table, not for ourselves but to help shape and mould a better future for the generations to come. As a seasoned professional, I now find ways to take full advantage of my authority and ability to give others a seat at the table and when there isn’t enough room, I share my own.

And going forward, I never stopped speaking my truth. I never stopped my deliberate journey to work for the kinds of organisations and leaders that encouraged ethical behaviour, generating passion, trust, compassion and respect for others.

Someday, the playing field will be equal. Until then, we have to dig deep and find the strength to keep pushing through the obstacles. I want to be a trailblazer because the women who came before me expect great things from me. The women who come after me will appreciate my effort.

The bottom line is, never stop showing up. It’s the only way to make progress.