- “When we show up, act boldly, and practice the best ways to be wrong, we fail forward. No matter where we end up, we’ve grown from where we began.” – Stacey Abrams
International Women’s Day today celebrating the contributions and potential for women in the world. Of course, sometimes the best path to their success is failure.
Linda Kramer Jenning’s “To Succeed, Women Must Learn to Fail Forward” talks about how failure can be a force of progress for women facing traditional challenges of sexism and bias in the workplace:
- “The short tenure of some women in the C-Suite has led researchers to talk about a ‘glass cliff.’ In this scenario, women break through the glass ceiling only to get pushed off a glass cliff. The theory is that they were moved into positions of top leadership when the organization was in turmoil and then are blamed if they can’t save the day. ‘There is this glass cliff notion that women are set up for failure,’ says Barbara Kellerman, founding executive director of the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership. She cautions that there aren’t nearly enough examples of women in the highest positions of leadership to draw many conclusions, but agrees that ‘when a woman is publicly seen to have failed or lost, there is certainly a higher premium on how she displays her experience of failure than there is for men.’ The question for women leaders is not if they will fail, but how they recover, according to Catherine Tinsley, professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and executive director of the university’s Women’s Leadership Institute. She says too much emphasis is placed on preventing failure and not enough on acknowledging that it is going to happen.”
And part of that experience of failure can be a role model for younger women following in their footsteps as Cristal Glangchai describes in her piece “The importance of showing girls it’s OK to fail”:
- “Many ambitious, high-achieving girls have been raised to judge themselves by unrealistic standards, regarding anything short of perfection as inadequate and shameful. And ironically, the more successful some young women seem to be—as measured by high test scores, good grades, an attractive appearance, athletic skill, popularity—the more dangerous the drive for perfection can be. This drive can lead to the impostor syndrome, a pervasive feeling that, no matter how much you may have achieved, you are really a fraud and a failure whose shortcomings are sure to be exposed someday. That’s why, when I founded an organization that teaches entrepreneurship and technology to kids, I made sure that failure was part of the lesson plan. In every entrepreneurial class or camp we run, instructors ensure that there will be plenty of frustrating, laughable, ‘What was I thinking!?’ failures. And how do we ensure this? It’s easy. We encourage girls to try new ideas, test them, stretch beyond their skill set, and take a shot at things that no one thinks will work. And they usually don’t work. That’s the beauty of it. We need only create an environment where failure is anticipated, welcomed, analyzed, and celebrated. When mistakes get made, we’ve been known to shake a can of carbonated water and spray the team, or break out New Year’s Eve noisemakers. When I say that we celebrate failures, I really mean it.”