Women’s History Month: A Challenge

Overcoming Adversity

As professional females, within the STEM field and in all fields, we have many questions to ponder during Women’s History Month. How do some women handle the most difficult situations imaginable and come out on top, time and again? Can this amazing resilience, positivity, and ability to handle adversity be “taught?” This is a powerful question and critical issue as the ability to manage in adverse situations is critical for success, particularly as we grow in our leadership roles.

Women's History Month

Handling Adversity

The manner in which we respond to adversity can and will impact our confidence, vision for our future, leadership opportunities and ultimately the way others view us. But – how can adversity propel us forward? In my research of those who manage adversity well for Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation: Inspiration and Strategies for Women, I’ve noted a few common factors present in varying degrees.

To manage adversity well:

  • Recognize that adversity is a PART OF THE PROCESS TO SUCCESS! Don’t automatically assume that because a difficult situation is facing you that you’ve done something wrong. Many times adversity is just a part of the process to success or leadership.
  • See beyond the adversity. Have confidence that the adversity will not last forever. Don’t “globalize” the adversity or obsess over an issue, making it bigger than it is. Manage the adversity, rather than having it manage you. Practice taking a “This, too, shall pass!” approach.
  • Don’t take things personally, and don’t own other peoples’ issues. Sometimes, the particular challenge will go away if we simply change our perspective on our situation or the value we place in a person’s opinion.
  • Do self-evaluation without self-depreciation. It is vitally important that we evaluate ourselves, but this does not mean putting ourselves down! Regularly remind yourself of the value you have. Think about how you’ve successfully managed a negative or adverse situation in the past.
  • Consciously use adversity as a learning experience by stepping back from the situation emotionally. This is easier said than done, but is 100% possible. I call it “moving into solution mode.” This involves a non-emotional (to the degree possible) analysis of the situation. Then, you focus on fixing it, or doing what you can to improve it. You take the bull by the horns, and you get the job done as best you can. It is like a form of “damage control.” The trick is to not get caught-up in the additional stress. Your emotions are great – they’re what make you passionate! But – your emotions aren’t your friend during this phase. You’ll have time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and life lessons later on.
  • Have a vision that is bigger than you. Let the value of vision become a source of motivation to actively and positively address the adversity.
  • Do something for someone else! Even something small will take your mind off of you and your adversity. Something as small as a kind word or compliment to a stranger can begin the solution process.

Move into Solution Mode:

  • PLAN: Isolate the source or basis of the adversity.
  • PREPARE: Determine what it takes to get the resources needed to address the adversity (possibly confrontation, establishing an alliance, allocating financial resources, defining personal development, etc.)
  • EXECUTE: Do it!

Challenge for Success

The more successful you are, the more challenges you will face so see the adversity as an indication that you’re moving in the right direction! I know this well, based on my own experiences, and on the experiences of other women, from compiled research, and data from studies that I write about in Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation: Inspiration and Strategies for Women.

Is Progress That Easy?

My friend and fellow author, Veronica Morris, and I were enjoying Sunday Brunch when a woman politely came up to our table to tell us how fabulous she thought we looked and how much she enjoyed seeing us having such a great time. We immediately shared with her how thoughtful we felt her comment was and in our brief conversation, she quickly shared that she had been in a less than positive mindset in recent months. To change her situation, she made a promise to herself to do or say something positive to at least one woman a day.

While I’m not sure of all of the details in her plan to get back to a positive mindset, this boldness and kindness to speak something positive to at least one woman a day not only helps her – but is also a source of positivity and joy to those lives she touches on a daily basis.

Women’s History Month

As we enter into Women’s History Month, I am reminded of the amazing women who have done so much to contribute to society, historically, and present-day. I am also reminded of the wonderful circle of women that I am so fortunate to have in my professional and personal life. When I think of the challenges many of these women have overcome I am inspired, empowered, and energized!

It may not come naturally to you, but this, too, can become a part of your response to life’s adversities. You can handle the challenges because quitting is not an option.

Observe Women’s History Month by celebrating and supporting a woman you know.  You can certainly make it happen!

Female STEM Professional

With great confidence in you,