The Changing Environment for Women’s Leadership – with Eleanor Beaton

If you’re interested in women’s leadership, you don’t want to miss today’s show. My guest has years of experience as a journalist and an entrepreneur, and she has her finger on the pulse of women’s leadership as it grows and develops. Join us!

Eleanor Beaton is an internationally-recognized expert in women’s leadership and an advisor to growth-oriented women entrepreneurs. She has served as chair of the Visiting Women’s Executive Exchange Program at Yale School of Management and sits on the board of directors of two Canadian venture capital organizations. Eleanor is also the host and executive producer of a top-ranked podcast for women entrepreneurs, Fierce Feminine Leadership. A former journalist reporting for the CBC, Globe and Mail, and Canadian Business, Eleanor was a finalist for a National Business Book of the Year, Canada’s top business book honor. She has won national prizes for her journalistic work, covering key issues related to women in leadership. 

Those internal conversations

A big player in the internal conversations we hold about our value stem from the ongoing socialization about what’s appropriate for women leaders to express and how they are allowed to express themselves. For a woman, expressing her expectations, dissent, and ambition is affected by what society allows. There are unique challenges for women in leadership so they are seen with authority and confidence. When we make ourselves wrong so that we fit into an established system, the less sustainable our success becomes. As Eleanor has studied this problem, she concluded that every woman must create her own criteria and boundaries that outline how she will show up with intention. 

The new frontier

The business world has become a battleground of transformation for women. We see it in the exodus of women from the business world as more and more women follow the path to entrepreneurship. Traditional business systems aren’t working for many women. The way we determine and measure business success has been largely shaped by men, as the majority of business books are written by men. Women are starting to assert themselves and take their power back in different ways. The business world is a playing field where women can have autonomy and make a difference in shaping and developing something new. 

The struggle for women

Most women who start businesses will start service-based businesses because they have a deep, personal connection to their skill set, and many of them go into coaching or consulting. The aspects of developing a business feel deeply personal, and they are challenging; they include establishing boundaries with clients, negotiating price points, and closing a sale. The ways in which women will advocate for their business can vary greatly with the ways they are comfortable advocating for themselves. 

The biggest surprise of 2020

Women have discovered and refined their purpose in 2020 because we’ve had to. We’ve had to change our normal coping mechanisms, and we have been forced to look inward and ask questions about why we are here, how we want to relate to people, and what we want to accomplish. Eleanor explains that the two biggest issues for women are access to networks and access to capital. She identifies another issue as access to a success narrative that reflects what we really want. Reshaping the narrative is a look at what we are learning and who we are becoming and not just a look at the external metrics. Women are looking to show up with resilience, grit, and determination to ensure that there is a richness to the process that we can enjoy. 

The power of niche

When Eleanor started her business, she realized that she was doing a lot of things to try unsuccessfully to manage her time. She realized that time management wasn’t the issue, but it was a deeper, structural issue in an effort to create more stillness. Niching isn’t just a marketing tactic, but it’s a structural tool that women entrepreneurs can use to reduce the things we have to do and find more time to be. Eleanor shares a personal example of niching down from her business journey that enabled her to do less and focus more. Whether in business or personal life, too much stuff can suffocate us and erode our spirit. 

Speak to your people

Fear is often what holds us back from what we need to focus on. We fear that our focus isn’t enough and that we will somehow be insufficient. There is a cultural expectation that tells women not to focus on a niche like it’s something not important enough and deserving of our focus. Eleanor explains that part of the problem with having focus is that it means you have boundaries, and our society isn’t accustomed to women who have boundaries. There is an internally – generated worry that clear boundaries will impact us negatively. We should never feel guilty when we need to say NO.

The importance of peer support

It’s vitally important to spend time with women who share and understand your same level of devotion. Having relationships with people who have similar goals and perspectives can be healing. Relationships and communities are extremely essential for women entrepreneurs, maybe more so than for other groups of people. Those who resonate with you give you support to be understood and to justify your effort. 

Highlights of this episode:

  • 4:24 – Internal conversations about our value
  • 13:13 – The battleground of transformation for women
  • 17:56 – The personal struggle for women
  • 20:32 – The biggest surprise of 2020
  • 22:15 – Reshaping the narrative of success
  • 26:41 – The power of niche
  • 39:05 – Speak to your people
  • 44:30 – Eleanor’s work around peer support
  • 49:28 – Fem Five

Resources mentioned:

  • Find Eleanor on Instagram: @EleanorBeaton
  • Find Eleanor’s podcast: Power + Presence + Position

Fem Five:

  1. Favorite book to recommend for women?
  • Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening by Martha Beck.

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • “Hot baths. They cure most things.”

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “A social worker once told me that the circumstances of your life will always support the decisions you make.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self?

  • “Slow down and enjoy the process. All the things you want will come to pass.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Adapting to Change as a 3rd Generation American Manufacturer – with Janet Wischnia

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