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A Matter of Wolf or Sheep

A Matter of Wolf or Sheep

“There comes a time when you have to decide who you want to be”, she said “a wolf or a sheep”.

I was still a teenager and at that moment I had no idea what she was talking about or how many times her question would flash through my head in the years to come. I paid no further attention to it. Until “the wolf” appeared more and more often as a sentinel on my life path; literally during an early morning on the way to an appointment with a business associate, actually as a namesake at a shelter, as the last name of people dear to me, and also in the proverbial sheep’s clothing.

Like most women, social inheritance has ensured that I have been raised to be a nice girl. We are imparted that our success and well-being in life depends on the kindness of others. Work hard, be kind, polite and above all don’t be difficult, and you will get there.

Like most young women, I believed that and was amazed to find that the reality is different.

I thought it was just me and adapted. It wasn’t until years later when younger women around me confided in me that they were struggling with the same issues. That shook me up and I started my investigation.

Emotional intelligence turns out to be the most important competency for success in the workplace. Women score higher than men on four of the six factors: self-knowledge, self-regulation, empathy and social skills. On self-motivation, men and women score equally.

So how is it possible that we still see so few women in crucial positions? Why do women still earn 16% less than men?

Men have a better sense of the imaginary boundaries and unwritten laws of the workplace. Why? Because they made these laws and rules themselves! The group/majority determines the status quo. And that majority usually consists of men. No wonder that nobody bothers about the inequality between men and women in the workplace. After all, they themselves are not bothered by it. The women, in the meantime, keep smiling politely, even when the umpteenth inappropriate remark is hurled at us.

What I did not realize more than 20 years ago was that the question I was asked was about leadership, about who you want to be as a woman in this life and about your own influence on it. Do you accept the status quo, or do you analyze what is happening, choose your wars, and keep an attentive and disciplined focus on your (end) goal? So tell me, are you a wolf or a sheep?

Rivka Valkenberg