Okay people – The article made me do it, and I just couldn’t sit with this again today.
I get bothered a bit anytime someone posits that there is such a thing as “real” men or “real” women and eludes to the fact that the “real” ones are those who conform to what other people agree with. And those who make decisions contrary to another person’s values or wishes are somehow “fake” or worse yet, “dumb.” I read an article this morning that is sending this message – a message that women leaders are somehow “fake” or “dumb” for ruining their careers when they make choices that don’t fit in so-called mainstream views. Now I feel compelled to put this message out today.
I am over reading about what “Smart” women and “Real” women should do. We are all “real” women, and I respect that we are each “smart” enough to make the best decisions for our personal and professional lives.
We each get to make our choices based on our personal and professional values, and we each must live with the positive and negative consequences of our own choices (whatever they may be). Since that is a fact, why in the world would we sit back and let another call us dumb or intimate that we are somehow not real if we make a choice that is contrary to what another woman makes.
Should smart female leaders seek out advice and guidance from others? Certainly. Should we be open to learn and change and remain committed to our professional growth? Certainly. Should we be second-guessing ourselves at every whim of another? Absolutely not.
When a female leader or executive is provided advice that indicates if she makes a choice contrary to the given advice that she is basically dumb, fake or lacking in commitment, the person giving the advice is trying to take away her power. I have a problem with this and several other women I affiliate with do too. While we are open to receive guidance and learn from another’s experiences, we are not bound to apply every or any suggestion or recommendation, and we certainly are not going to accept being made to feel guilty because we don’t.
Really! – Do we (as women leaders) really need to or want to add one more thing to feel guilty about on our plates (society imposes so many already).

10 Things “Real” Smart Female Leaders Do…

It starts and ends with whatever the heck we want to; but here are some specifics:

  1. Get married if you want to, and get divorced if you want to as well (make choices based on your value system – not anyone else’s). Men don’t even get asked these questions; clearly we still have a way to go in the 21st century.
  2. Have 20 children if you want to and don’t feel obliged to explain that choice to anyone.
  3. Don’t have any children if you don’t want to, and don’t feel obliged to answer to anyone about this choice.
  4. Be a stay-at-home mom if you want to; take care of your parents if you want.
  5. Return to work whenever the heck you want to – whether it be when your child is one day old, 18 years old, or never (it really is your choice and no one else’s).
  6. Leave your career in the middle of it or after receiving amazing promotions if you want to. Work outside the home if you want to or not at all (if that is an option you have).
  7. Make mistakes, learn from them and keep it moving.
  8. Go ahead and take on those high-demanding executive positions if you want to (whether you have children or not, this is your choice).
  9. Give your power away to whom and when you want to. Own it if you want to.
  10. And Lead How You Want To. I am among those who regularly educate on effective leadership principles, but at the end of the day, you must set your own standards for leadership effectiveness and professional success. Do what works for you, for your team, for your organization, for your family.
Be what and whomever you want to! In all of it, the choices and the consequences are yours. So long as you go in knowing that, do it and live with it. There is no one-size fits all for leadership nor for professional women (well for men either for that matter).

I’ll end with this.

Women could do well to refrain from judging other women’s choices. It is precisely because we are smart female leaders (remember leadership is not about a job title) that we don’t accept being put down by my men or by other women (no matter how successful that other women or man believes they are).
There really are many different flavors of ice cream. What works for one woman’s (or man’s) career or leadership style, may or may not work for another. What seems like the right choice for you, may not be the right choice for her.

And isn’t that the grandness of it all!

We have choices and we get to each make our own. Just because the choices are hard or we don’t like the consequences or options, it doesn’t eliminate the choice.

Terina Allen
CEO, ARVis Institute
International Speaker | Strategist | Management Consultant | Educator | Author


  1. Thank you for reminding me of this. I thought I knew it somewhere at sometime, but it is easy to get caught up with all the pressures the world puts on us. I am using this to remind myself that what I do is my choice. Great post!

Leave a Comment