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BW Businessworld

The ‘I Can’ Mindset

If changing mindsets of male managers and business leaders seems a challenge, then companies that aspire to be “employers of choice for women” need to embed measurable and powerful gender-audit policies and good governance at the board level

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Recently I was pursued by a persistent call from the family to design a room. I resisted as I didn’t think I had any demonstrable talent for it but eventually relented. I browsed pictures and consulted friends looking for ideas, yet the Aha moment eluded. Still, something stirred up in the struggle. I flashed back to the many maddening leaps of faith that I had taken and was deeply groomed by them. So what was stopping me now? Awakened by the little voice within, I straightened and said the magical words again: I can.

And I did. What happened? A massive rush of inspired energy caused a quantum shift in mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’.

“I can, therefore I am,” said Simone Weil. We grow up indeed through a series of ‘I can’ moments: a tricycle we ride, a solo trip we make, a betrayal we forgive, a commitment we make.... When and why do we stop caring for these empowering ‘I can’ moments that have always enabled & expanded us?

We need the ‘I can’ mindset all along the entire journey of life. And no ‘I can’ moment is small. A friend in Morocco who always wanted to be a vegetarian but was conflicted due to a meat­-eating culture around her eventually found a soulful support group and could stand up for her own choice. Her family now honours her wish and even looks out for vegetarian options for her when dining out. Each ‘I can’ moment of overcoming is a precious step toward assuming the fullness of our own selves.

The ‘I can’ is thus a bridge of belief between you and all that you can be. The good news is that you can create this bridge anytime. The bad news is that no one else can create it for you.

‘I can’ is an attitude and energy that you will need to nurture through daily discipline of conscious habits. I’ve seen for years an incredible woman respond to even the routine “how are you” with a thunderous “Awesome” every day. She’d say, “As you say, so shall you feel.” Yad Bhavam, Tad Bhavati, says a Sanskrit verse that further means “as you feel, so shall you manifest”.

While it’s sobering that we have to do it all on our own, it’s comforting that we don’t have to do it alone. We can and should tap into the inspired energy that can come from communities of support, which albeit we again have to nurture ourselves by being the change we wish to see. These communities of support are what we help build for women at ALL and WEF, and through them for all.

Savannah Maziya, CEO and chairperson of the Bunengi Group, which delivers large scale infrastructure projects across Africa, told us that women must figure out how to garner the support of other women. A businesswoman of mettle in a man’s world, she says when you see other women standing, and when others also see other women standing, then with the force of your intrinsic conviction and the extrinsic support of those who believe in you and stand by you, you can persuade and prevail. Savannah is also creating a community of support for the development of the girl child in STEM across all of Africa through the African First Ladies initiative that she leads.

Let’s start by first knocking down the walls of ‘I can’t’ within. With every crumbling, we will build a powerful bridge of belief for ourselves and that will also invite others into the transformative space of ‘I can’. Together, we shall.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Harbeen Arora

A humanitarian leader, women's mentor, author, and businesswoman, Dr. Arora is the Global Chairperson of ALL Ladies League and Women Economic Forum. Her business interests include real estate, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship. Author of the acclaimed book, Creative Living, she holds a Ph.D from Sorbonne Nouvelle, University of Paris III

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