Be The Captain of Your Own Ship

This is the second post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


As a gay man, I am often confused by the notion of striving for equal rights. It is not the equal part that is confusing. It is the striving.

On one hand, there is a need to identify with a cultural brand, e.g. gay. On the other hand, there is a quest for rights that everyone else has. With that, is also a quest for opportunities, and the subsequent success and power that others possess.

These two forces contradict each other. For example, I noticed when reading about a Mr. Gay America pageant, one of the organizers alluded that if straight females can do it, so can we.

My response, is why do you want to take your unique culture and mirror it against another? Does this create equality or does it create following? If it’s following, is this disguised abdication?

Giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there are no original ideas to create or original identities to own. Hence, outside of discriminating factors, such as sexual orientation, race, religion, color, or genetic indicators, we are all human with the same needs. Therefore, all notions of equality are universally the same. If this is the case, then there is no box to break out of outside of the one we create for ourselves. If this is true, then it does not matter what discriminating trait you carry. Each of us individually has to strive for equal rights and opportunities on our own terms. Each of us decides our own definition of success and power.

These were my thoughts after I read the manifesto, The 6 Rules Women Must Break In Order To Succeed.

Moreover, I felt a little confused. I can’t escape the notion that their definitions of power were built upon structures of power already in existence, and success was based on having more power. Also, it seems the very structure they claim is holding them back is the same one they want to embrace. Thus, I found instead of creating truly new rules, they are suggesting to follow rules already in place.

I don’t disagree with the six rules for someone seeking their definition of power. However, I had difficulty not applying their rules to anyone who was seeking this power regardless whether they were women or men. I agree, for example, one should not “focus on everyone else” or “expect hard work to be enough” or “fall into extreme thinking.”

However, I do think the rules are limiting. I am not one to tell someone else what success or power is. Both of these are individual choices. Hence my negative criticism of the manifesto is of the narrow band of which success is defined. I read nothing that illuminated the internal beauty of feeling free to choose your own level of success. For me, that is when true power comes into play.

Frankly though, I was hoping to discover some true insights into some different rules for women. Going into it, I was anticipating something iconoclastic like Patti Smith. Instead, I was left with Pat Benatar. Neither bad. Simply, one was the captain of their own ship and broke the rules, the other one was a captive of the ship and followed the rules.

To me, if you wish to truly create new rules, take charge of yourself, create your own definitions of success and power, and be the captain of your own ship.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Paul Smith

Paul Smith is a human resources manager at a non-profit organization, music & social media enthusiast, bicycle advocate and host of the HR blog, Welcome To The Occupation. Connect with Paul on Twitter as @pasmuz.


Debbie Brown

Paul I think it really depends on your perspective- (which you have shared very well)-. Mine would be that many wonder why the numbers have not changed in the executive ranks or boardroom for the past 10 years (or 20). The numbers have stayed in the 10-15% range for women in the F1000 as an example when those very firms have 51% females working for them, and some may even have that ratio in lower levels of management . When you consider those facts then you also have to look at all the variables in the mix? Perhaps this study provides some (certainly not all) insight?


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