Female factor - dropping the mask at work

In this picture taken on 14 July 2003, office employees walk below a giant screen at the financial district of Raffles Place in Singapore. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Everyone is there except Dave - late again because he is sending his kids to school. Do you:

A: Give Dave some flexibility and ask him to work later: or

B: Tell him he has to stick to the rules or you will tell HR.

You chose B because you had no choice when your kids were younger. They took the bus.


At home you are a caring mother and you volunteer at an orphanage.

Where did that compassion go?

You tell yourself, you are doing your job. You, and Dave, have responsibilities.

You are miserable. You hate your job and having to treat your team with an iron fist.

Well I’ve got good news for you. Today’s corporate world is evolving to recognise their employees - not as assets, but as humans. The authoritarian charismatic leader is being replaced by warmer vulnerable leaders. Enter the women who are changing the workplace.

After her husband’s sudden death, Sheryl Sandberg extended benefits for Facebook employees so they could be with their families: 20 days bereavement leave, leave to care for a sick child or parent, 4 months parental leave (including fathers).

Melinda Gates reminds us that workplaces are stuck in the past when men went to work in the full comfort of their wives looking after the home. Now both men and women work far longer hours than while their employers fail to accommodate a true work-life balance.

I’ve argued that we should adopt Keynes’ 15 hours week. Brene Brown tells us to embrace our vulnerability rather than deny it. Claire Zammit highlights the need to move out of rigid masculine structures and adopt a more fluid feminine approach.

All of us agree: the workplace has to change.

Tomorrow's leadership – a strategic review. Source: LeadWomen.

Make the Workplace Kind

This starts with you. First, drop that mask and be yourself. If you recognise Dave’s care for his children, give him that flexibility and watch how he spreads that same kindness at work. He will go the extra mile to deliver because you cared about him. Remember Pay It Forward? Same concept.

Go buy Sandberg’s Option B and wave it at anyone who questions the need for compassion at work.

Live Your Values

I found joy at work once I reconnected with my values and applied them. Empowerment is my core value. I needed trust and space from my boss. So I did it for my team. Instead of micro managing, I learnt to give them the space to explore and grow. Today I am proud of how they have developed.

If integrity is important to you, you would be miserable if told to omit negative facts from a marketing campaign. Speak up and honour your need for integrity. It is so needed in the wave of corporate scandals.

Be Flexible

Too often we are stuck by KPI targets as conditions around us change. This is rigid thinking. Stay open to the possibilities that arise. Enjoy that uncertainty and embrace creative solution thinking.

Be Open and Listen

There are too many people shouting to be heard. Instead of yelling over them, step back and listen. It’s a very calming stance. When you show you are listening, others will open up and tell you what you need to hear. It’s not easy to resist being defensive. That’s your insecurities showing up. Stay quiet and listen. It’s a way for leaders to grow and truly understand their people.

Be Vulnerable

Say sorry when you make a mistake. Don’t make excuses. Don’t shift the blame. At the recent Conservative Conference, Theresa May apologised for her party’s poor election results. We don’t hear leaders say sorry enough. Ex BP CEO Tony Hayward and Wells Fargo ex CEO John Stumpf refused to say sorry for their company scandals. So they had to go.


We can get so caught up doing that we forget why we are doing it in the first place. If you find yourself overwhelmed, breathe. Ask:

  • Why am I doing this?

  • Does it reflect my values and purpose?

  • Is what I am doing really helpful for my people?



Animah Kosai is a speaker and writer specialising on speaking up in the workplace. This article is a collaboration between The ASEAN Post and LeadWomen. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The ASEAN Post.


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