Courage (and Girl Power)

Posted by on October 29, 2019

Courage (and Girl Power)

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage and confidence lately – two favorite themes of mine – and coincidentally had two smart, powerful women clients the same day where these topics came up. It’s funny how issues that are on my mind, like the confidence gap between the genders, are often highlighted by the challenges my clients face.

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about courage (aka girl power) the past couple months is the eloquence of 16-year-old activist’s Greta Thunberg as she has spoken out in defense of the environment. When I was a young girl, I was expected to behave, be quiet, and respect my elders – even when their behavior might not have deserved my respect. Greta’s independence, spunk and sureness in her cause are inspiring. It’s unlikely she always feels confident, but clearly she cares enough to do her important work anyway. (Here’s her speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit:

And then there’s Alex Borstein’s recent Emmy award acceptance speech (at right) where she told the story of her Grandmother’s audacious question to a guard (i.e., authority figure). Being “out of line” literally saved her life. (For more inspiration, you can watch Alex’s speech here:

My own clients continue to impress and inspire me with their courage as they speak up in their careers. One noted that things changed for her dramatically when she stopped worrying about disappointing her boss and instead said she didn’t wanted to to disappoint herself. When her true priorities became clear (e.g., her daughter and her health), it became easier to say “no” to a culture of over-working.

Another client, who works in international childrens’ rights, has recently become more willing to say what needs to be said – even if it’s to powerful funders and the message isn’t popular. When I asked her what the worst thing was that might happen, her answer was perfect. She said, “I don’t care.” What she does care about is serving children who don’t have a voice.

When we get clearer about what our priorities are and what we truly care about, it becomes easier to be courageous and to stand up to authority. Of course, there’s space here for the men to be courageous, too, perhaps even just in supporting the women around them. Something as simple as saying in a meeting, “Bob, before we move on to your comment, I’d like to hear more about the idea Sally just mentioned” can make a huge difference in an organization’s culture.

Where could you be more courageous? Which of your personal priorities might make that easier? Where can you support those who might have less power than you?

Have courage!

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at

p.p.s. There is one spot left in a career coaching group starting Nov 11 in Memphis. More information here: