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Women in Stem – How to give yourself a break.

My clients – women in STEM or those in the professional services where men at the top significantly outnumber the women, have LOTS of qualifications. Even then, they are often aiming towards new certifications!  As part of working towards my MCC, the highest certification granted by the ICF (International Coach Federation) it’s humbling having to unlearn a lot of what I thought made me a good coach.That was often helping my clients get to the ‘actions’ of what they needed to do – almost like a ‘to-do list’. The actions are great, but my clients are smart people – they know what steps they need to do.

However, I’m finding my coaching clients, often women in stem, get to it faster if we spend our time unpicking ‘why’ they want to do the things they say they want to do. If we focus a good deal of time exploring the value underneath the benefits they’re aiming for, it easily drives the commitment to those actions. This can sometimes involve asking ourselves some uncomfortable questions.

A coaching clinic client of mine, Sarah, brought to one of our sessions the goal of getting clearer on all that she needed to do at work, before relaxing into her upcoming holiday. 

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Sarah rattled off the list of items quite quickly. Not hard – we all have a long list of ‘need to’s’. However, when I asked ‘if we went deeper, what would we see?’ she was silent before admitting that she felt she needed to do these things to be worthy of a break 🙁

With that, she revisited growing up in a home where her parents routinely postponed holidays, saying ‘Maybe next year, when we’ve earned a bit more’. Sarah said, ‘My brother and I would have been happy camping in the back garden, but as my parents earned more, their goal posts kept getting further away. I think I learned you had to earn a holiday…and holidays took a lot of work to earn’.

We then opened the session wider by exploring ‘What if you didn’t have to earn a break? What would that be like?’ which got her thinking much more creatively.  In fact, we often see this shift in the body as Sarah actually exhaled when I asked. She realised her self-worth, and therefore ‘deserving a holiday’ didn’t need to be tied to how busy she was.

My coaching clients, women in stem and in male-dominated sectors, are often the hardest of workers. If you are one, a question to ask yourself is: What enables you to exhale and step into what you deserve – even as you know there’s always more to do? 

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