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As a woman attorney fighting the good fight in a man’s world, I know that part of armoring up is balancing resilience with empathy and assertiveness with kindness, as well as a willingness to pave a path for those who come after. As the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Though there’s not a limit to the winning characteristics that this and other women warriors have, there are five that typically stand out the most.
Contrary to popular belief, this is a trait that can be built over time. Though some have an innately strong sense of confidence, others have had to put in work to nurture it. Either way, it manifests in the way you present yourself in the room, the ability to speak up for your ideals and values and in knowing when to take risks.
Research published in 2019 from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that women describe their talents and performance to potential employers less favorably than equally performing male counterparts. This leads to a wider gender gap in self-promotion and pay equity, meaning women earn less even though they’re equally qualified. But even in times like those, when confidence is diminished, women warriors know that it’s only a temporary state before rising to the challenge again. It’s their ability to overcome obstacles and change the narrative — to build confidence and show up as their best selves — that makes a difference.
Many women juggle families, careers, friendships and self-care, and somehow find ways of spending quality time and energy on each. They’re able to stay flexible with changing schedules and optimize time for the best results.
They know how to quickly assess a situation and make the changes necessary to reach a final goal, but that doesn’t mean taking on more and more until they’re burnt out. Instead, they evaluate problems from all sides, and so know when to take something on solo and when to call on others for support. Sometimes this means engaging a colleague, a babysitter or some other resource to temporarily fill in when needed.
Adaptability also allows them to look at things from new and differing perspectives to improve upon a process or project and/or avoid problems in the future. When faced with a roadblock, they don’t quit, but rather find ways of pivoting to achieve what they set out to do.
Women continue to break down barriers in the workplace — as well as in society — by approaching things in different ways based on their backgrounds and experience. Instead of behaving according to the playbook they’ve been given, they explore more efficient, effective and inclusive ways of getting things done. To stay up to date with what’s necessary in the modern world, this requires a willingness to look beyond initial solutions and make room for new ones.
While there’s a respect for learning from the past, warrior women know that doing something simply because it’s the way it’s always been done is a method of thinking that limits growth and opportunity. They seek innovative ways of blazing new trails in order to benefit the generations to follow.
After all, it’s women who are responsible for inventing many of the daily necessities we take for granted today, like the coffee filter (Melitta Bentz), the electric refrigerator (Florence Parpart) and central heating (Alice H. Parker, an African American)…things that simplify and vastly improve our everyday lives. This list goes on to include medical syringes (Letitia Mumford Geer), computer algorithms (Ada Lovelace) and the car heater (Margaret Wilcox). Whether it’s introducing a unique strategy or proposing a plan to make a culture shift, ingenuity inspires and leaves room for new opportunities.
And though women inventors have come a long way over the past several decades, they are still underrepresented. Fortunately, their representation in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, jumped from 19% in 1970 to 64% in 2019, which means these warriors continue to push through archaic ways of thinking and present new insights and opportunities that everyone can benefit from.
Warrior women also know to bypass the “shoulds” of life and decide to show up authentically as themselves. This requires a balance of honesty and vulnerability, along with the ability to communicate well. When a person shows up as their authentic self, it limits the doubt, uncertainty and fear that can often derail progress.
In a world where women feel like they have to wear many hats, the best thing they can do is approach each task in a genuine way. That way, even when they come up against someone in disagreement, they have a foundation to rely on to make decisions that will have a meaningful impact. Aligning actions with thoughts and beliefs instills a sense of trust in others and helps build genuine connections.
This quality is often used to describe a person’s quest to reach the top, but drive for women warriors is more about the energy they bring to whatever they do. Whether it’s spearheading a new project or embarking on a solo adventure, they create constant forward motion to get to the next level, despite adversity.
For proof, we need look no further than the early professional days of Oprah Winfrey, who was publicly fired from her first job as a Baltimore TV anchor, only to then go and build a $2.6 billion media empire. Or consider Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, who was a single mom down to her last dollars when she began writing what would become an international pop culture sensation. For all those who have been rejected, doubted and deemed less-than in all industries — yet triumph — the common characteristic is an inner drive.
Part of everyday challenges stems from knowing what routes to take to avoid roadblocks and otherwise maintain control when the unexpected occurs. Drive allows women to avoid irrelevant distractions and filter input from others in order to stay on task. Not everyone has the same goal, but the strong have what it takes to keep things moving in the right direction without veering far off course.
Channeling your inner warrior
Women warriors are strong, determined and powerful beings, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to challenges, setbacks and failure. Building up any of the traits listed above takes time and requires inner strength and persistence. Some will come easier than others, but like any other part of life, consistency and habit are what create excellence. The goal isn’t perfection, it’s onward.
With great power comes great responsibility, however, and it’s up to every person to acknowledge areas where they can improve and take greater accountability, but channeling your own inner warrior will pave the way to greater possibilities, innovative leadership and increased success.