As an inclusion strategist, I always have the impression that I’m behind. The inspiring Audre Lorde – who defined herself as “black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, poet”- captured my feelings very well in the following quote:
“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.”Audre Lorde
So much to do and so little time!
I also find it difficult to reflect on and savour my accomplishments. Although DEI and women in tech are topics where many people doing an amazing job, the progress is slow or sometimes akin to a Whac-A-Mole game, the moment you think an area is improving, then something else pops up.
For example, I was very glad to see that the Black Lives Matter movement had put DEI are the forefront and that many organisations were prioritising it. But the relief has lasted only for a while. With the redundancies in the tech sector and the inflation, the roles related to DEI are the first bearing the brunt of the layoffs.
Unlike in my corporate job, my “identity” as an inclusion strategist has much more fluid KPIs. Part is paid work and part is probono. It’s also a match-up of several areas: coaching, public speaking, and writing, to mention a few.
So, what’s enough? Is savouring successes a path to conformity?
We are told that comparison and feedback make us better. That without criticism, we’ll all be slackers and underperformers.
And that’s reinforced every year when we commit to annual goals, KPIs, and scorecards.
We’re told that we need to do more and better and that the path is to continuously measure ourselves against others — and surpass them. Only then, we can be sure we’re doing our best.
The problem that is not often discussed is how this drives dissatisfaction, frustration, and disappointment with ourselves.
“Comparison” comes often in my coaching sessions. Amazing individuals that create and deliver impactful work feel that they’re not enough when they measure themselves up against others — colleagues, family, friends, influences, and even random people on social media.
I tell them that I see comparison at three levels:
- Upward social comparison — When we compare ourselves to those who we believe are better than us.
- Downward social comparison — When we compare ourselves to people who we believe are worse off than us.
- Comparison to ourselves — When we compare ourselves against a version of our persona.
Upward and downward comparisons typically provide either transitory self-esteem boost— e.g. I’m better than individual X — or in the long run, generate emotions like jealousy and envy — my career hasn’t progressed as fast as that of colleague Y.
But comparing to ourselves is not the panacea always. And that became clear to me last week.
Savouring our wins
I joined a journaling virtual session focused on mid-year reflection. It sounded harmless but I was dreading it — a little bit like when you know the medicine you’ll take is going to be bitter.
My brain catastrophised about all the things on my “2023 to-do list” that I hadn’t accomplished yet. Still, I saw the value of joining the session because I thought it helped me focus and prioritise activities and tasks during the last part of the year.
In hindsight, I see that I went to the session thinking about comparing myself with an aspirational version of myself that I imagined on January 1st, 2023.
And that became clear during the first 10 min of the session. The facilitator asked us to focus on the past 6 months and think about what we were most proud of, what we had to celebrate. We were urged to look for all kinds of accomplishments and experiences — big and small.
Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded…Audre Lorde
So, instead of comparing myself to that idealised version that I had set at the beginning of the year, I was asked to go back in time to January 1st, 2023 and compare myself to that version of Patricia.
And that did the trick. By comparing my current self with that of 6 months ago, I was able to see progress without judging myself. We were given less than 5 minutes but I couldn’t stop writing.
- Article: 7 Best Practices to Deliver Inclusive Coaching Experiences — Life Coach Magazine (July 2023).
- Artice: Am I an entrepreneur? — “Ziva Voices — HerStory in the Making” bookazine (April 2023)
- Wrote a weekly Blog Post since Feb 13th, 2023 and I revamped my website patriciagestoso.com
- Broadened the reach of my blog post by making them accessible via a Weekly Newsletter that I advertise as fresh thinking about inclusion, tech, professional success & systemic change through a feminist lens.
- 10 of my Medium articles were featured in Code Like a Girl magazine.
- Posting on LinkedIn daily since April 2023.
I did my first podcast of the year! I was a guest on the podcast “Ophelia On Fire!”. In the episode, I talked about
- Self-worth vs Confidence
- Confidence vs Competence
- Strategies to avoid our feeling of confidence holding us back in our careers
- Panel ”Healthcare 2.0: Do all roads lead to Medical School?” at the UK Imaging and Oncology Congress UKIO 2023 (June 2023).
- Keynote “How Patriarchy fosters your Perfectionism, Self-criticism and Self-doubt and what you can do about it” at the EDIA Colloquium “Women in Science, Industry and Academia” at the University of Manchester (May 2022).
- Keynote “Seven Counterintuitive Secrets to a Thriving Career in Tech” at the Women in Tech Global Conference 2023.
- Keynote “How feminism can support the decolonisation of AI” at the Feminist AI and Digital Policy Roundtable (April 2023).
- Keynote “Delivering inclusive coaching experiences” for the Queen Bee Coaching April 2023 CPD session (April 2023).
- After a 6-month training and passing two exams, I’ve got certified as a life coach by The Life Coach School.
- Following my impossible goal for 2023 of coaching 50 women and underrepresented people to get the promotion they deserve, I’m happy to report that I’ve already coached 42 of them towards getting the professional recognition they merit.
I’m writing a book about “how women succeed in tech worldwide” for which we run a survey worldwide. Last June, we reached the milestone of 400 responses from women in tech living in 50+ countries.
If you’re a woman in tech, you can still share your experience by answering the 7-min survey here.
Patriarchy instructs women to downplay our achievements, experiences, and skills. That’s why I find testimonials from clients a way to fight against that indoctrination.
- I created a page on my website to collect clients’ testimonials.
- I was especially touched by four of the testimonials I received this year
Over 6 coaching sessions, Patricia’s empathetic approach enabled me to work through my difficulties and find new ways of approaching my work projects.
The dedication and commitment she brought to our sessions gave me the confidence and encouragement to identify what was holding me back and to find possible solutions. Her insights always kept me focussed on putting into action steps that would achieve results.
I gained enormously from my sessions with Patricia. Her experienced questioning guided me through a difficult period of transition from a career in the television industry to a new phase in my working life.Bren Simson. TV director, author, local historian and guide
I participated in the Ada’s List coaching programme, a 6-month development programme for women and non-binary people in tech at Citizens Advice. We focused on leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion within technology and ways to develop your career. We shared insights and challenges, discussed different approaches and identified opportunities to learn and develop.Sarah Gallacher, Product Manager, Citizens Advice
Patricia was able to look at my experience, and then where I was right now. It literally felt like she was weaving together different strands to then hone in exactly on career blocks and give me some ideas to move past them.
Ruth Westnidge, Software Engineer
Her style was to ask questions rather than give me a simple a to-do list, I also liked the way I felt I could trust her professional experience. She knew what I was talking about from inside my chosen sector.
Patricia joined our Feminist AI and Digital Policy Roundtable discussion in April and presented her view on “how do decolonize AI with feminism”. I am impressed with her deep insights from the various, socio-technological perspectives of AI that she backed up with professional and personal experiences. Highly recommended speaker!Alexandra Wudel, Co-Founder & Geschäftsführerin FemAI GmbH | Political Advisor | Speaker | MBA
Back to the journaling session, the effect of writing this laundry list of accomplishments was cathartic.
As for the rest of the session? The usual. We were told to come up with our list of priorities for the year, identify the barriers, and look for enablers.
My takeaway? Whilst comparing ourselves to our future selves can help us think big, it can also lead us to burnout and permanent dissatisfaction.
Back to you
Put a 5 min alarm on your phone and give yourself permission to pause and journal about all the things you’re proud of in the last 6 months.
And then, savour them.
“You are the one that you are looking for.”Audre Lorde
Let me know in the comments what 2023 accomplishments and experiences you celebrating.
QUIZ: Patriarchy and You
How much is patriarchy ruling your life and career?
We believe that we make choices based on logic and objective criteria.The reality is that the patriarchal rules embedded in our socialisation often decide for us.
This 3-minute quiz will tell you how much patriarchy impacts your life and career choices.