The role of women in society has evolved significantly over the years, and one powerful tool that has played a crucial role in this transformation is advocacy. Women’s empowerment through advocacy is a multifaceted concept that encompasses a range of activities aimed at advancing the rights, opportunities, and well-being of women. The power of her voice, when channeled through advocacy, has the potential to bring about positive change in various spheres of life.
Confronted with a multitude of challenges, these exceptional women haven’t simply navigate obstacles; they’ve obliterated deeply ingrained stereotypes. Through their unyielding determination and notable achievements, they’ve emphasized that gender must never serve as a constraining factor in the quest for success. Their narratives are potent sources of inspiration, encapsulating resilience and unwavering resolve. By candidly sharing their experiences, these pioneering women actively contribute to a narrative that empowers others to dismantle societal barriers, instilling the courage to pursue aspirations without limitations.
Many women find it challenging to voice their needs due to societal pressures ingrained from a young age. Growing up with expectations to be ‘ladylike’ or to avoid being ‘dramatic’ subtly encourages passivity and early self-doubt, rather than fostering self-confidence. This ingrains a subconscious belief that being respected means putting oneself beneath others. Sixteen-year-old fashion designer, artist, model, international speaker, and bestselling author Hanalei Swan highlighted, “Sadly, many young girls still face these expectations, fostering a people-pleasing nature that makes expressing one’s own wants and needs difficult. Recognizing these societal influences is crucial to empower women to reclaim their voices and embrace their worthiness in speaking up for themselves confidently.”
Hanalei grew up traveling with her family and was constantly surrounded by driven entrepreneurs who inspired her to start her own company when she was 11. Over time, doubts crept in, and she questioned if the path she was on truly aligned with her desires or if what she was doing was just to meet the expectations she thought people had of her. She felt trapped by the image she’d created. Changing meant risking the approval she valued deeply. She was scared to voice her internal shift, fearing she’d disappoint. “Through reflection, I understood that seeking external validation shouldn’t outweigh my happiness. I learned that using my voice for my own authenticity mattered more than gaining approval from others. This realization was pivotal in my journey of self-discovery and empowerment”, she shares.
According to Hanalei, women’s voices aren’t a curse but a blessing, and it’s time to rediscover the power of using them. She, too, learned to silence herself out of fear, but standing up for herself taught her that she is worthy of letting her voice be heard. It’s not just about gaining external respect but fostering self-respect. Hanalei believes that when women use their voices collectively, they create a culture where other women feel empowered to express themselves and earn the respect they inherently deserve.
Today, more than ever, women are embracing their intrinsic worth and value. This growing confidence has led to increased comfort in articulating their needs, wants, and opinions, a significant shift from times when many women felt unheard and unrecognized. Historically, societal constraints often silenced women, creating an atmosphere of fear around speaking out. However, the current generation of women, characterized by their intelligence and articulateness, is shaping environments where their views are not only welcomed but also actively shared.
Lady JB Owen, Founder and CEO of Ignite Publishing, JBO Global Inc, and Ignite Moments Media, shares, “This transformation can be attributed to various societal changes, including enhanced educational opportunities, advancements in legal rights, and a broader cultural acceptance of diverse voices. While substantial progress has been made, challenges persist globally for women expressing themselves, with some regions resisting change.”
In a period overshadowed by domestic violence, Lady JB Owen struggled to advocate for herself, burdened by shame and self-blame. The societal stigma compounded the difficulty, creating an atmosphere that felt like a solitary battle. A turning point occurred when Lady JB Owen shared her story with someone who understood. In that vulnerability, they found mutual empowerment, exchanging strength to improve their lives. This journey taught Lady JB Owen the transformative power of storytelling—more than narrating the past, it shapes the present and future. The experience, while reshaping her life, became a testament to the healing power stories hold for oneself and others.
Countless women’s triumphant paths serve as beacons of hope, inspiring others to navigate challenges with resilience. Empowering women’s voices and sharing personal stories, as seen in Lady JB Owen’s journey, underscore a fundamental truth. “When women speak their truths, they liberate themselves and pave the way for others”, she says. This act of sharing fosters community and empathy, essential for personal and societal growth. Each story and voice contributes to a collective narrative of resilience, courage, and empowerment, building a more inclusive and understanding world through shared experiences and support.
Crystal Jackson, one of the co-founders of Elevate Co and the owner of Crystal Jackson-Intuitive Business Synergis Crystals expressed the belief that many women find it challenging to voice their needs and wants due to ingrained societal beliefs about women’s roles. Crystal highlighted the pressure on women to conform to the expectations of being a “good woman” and the fear of being perceived as selfish when expressing desires for more in life. “There is alot of fear around being viewed as selfish when women express that they want more out of life and that has led many women to become martyrs in order to not rock the boat so to speak, she says.
Crystal shared a personal story from her early twenties when she felt a sense of unrest and unfulfillment despite having a stable life with marriage, a good job, and material possessions. She struggled with questioning herself and felt judged for desiring more than the conventional status quo. This experience led her to understand the difficulty many women face when trying to speak up about their desires and ambitions.
When asked about the importance of women using their voices, Crystal emphasized the significance of sharing stories of empowerment. She believes that by speaking up about their true desires and pursuing them, women can challenge societal perceptions of driven women. Crystal argued that when women give themselves permission to advocate for their needs, they, in turn, empower other women to do the same. This, she believes, opens up new possibilities not only for the current generation but for generations to come, fostering a positive change in how society views and supports ambitious women.
Jet Van Wijk, CEO and Founder of Laptop Lifestyle Master Program, emphasizes, “It is difficult for many women to voice their needs and wants due to conflicting and unrealistic societal expectations.” There’s a tricky balance women are expected to maintain—being thin but not too thin, being ambitious but not too intimidating. This makes it paradoxical for women to express their personal preferences. Unfair responsibilities, like being blamed for men’s actions and dealing with conflicting beauty standards, make women hesitant to openly share their desires.
She uses examples from the movie “Barbie” to show the challenges women face. The quotes from the movie highlight how women are pressured to be bosses without being mean and leaders without suppressing ideas. The movie also reflects societal expectations around motherhood, where women are supposed to love being mothers but not talk about it too much. Women also face challenges in meeting beauty standards and fostering female solidarity at the same time. This creates a complex situation where they have to meet certain aesthetic criteria while also supporting other women.
Jet shared a personal experience highlighting the challenges women face in professional settings. At a work conference, Jet chose to wear a suit to convey professionalism and seriousness about her business. However, she encountered judgment when someone questioned why she didn’t opt for a more revealing dress. This situation left her feeling scrutinized, as if societal expectations dictated a specific appearance for women in business. “There are these unwritten rules about how we should look, and it can make it hard to just be ourselves. It felt like I had to choose between being taken seriously or fitting into what people expected”, she says. Jet expressed the difficulty of choosing between being taken seriously as a business owner and meeting societal expectations of femininity, emphasizing how these expectations can overshadow recognition based on skills and work.
When asked about the importance of women using their voices in business, Jet underscored its critical role. Speaking up allows women to challenge stereotypes, dismantle barriers, and bring diverse perspectives to decision-making. Advocating for oneself and others not only facilitates professional growth but also contributes to a supportive business environment.
Within the contemporary professional landscape, male-dominated work environments continue to be prevalent across various industries. These environments often present challenges for women seeking equal opportunities and recognition. However, a transformative movement is underway as women harness the power of their voices to advocate for change and empowerment. This shift is crucial within fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace, promoting diversity, and breaking down systemic barriers.
Stephanie Jaie, author, speaker, Somatic Sexologist shared a personal story from her early twenties when she worked in sales in the tech industry. Stephanie frequently attended male-dominated conferences, and one particular event stood out due to its “off the books” nature, involving excessive intoxication and creating a significant power dynamic between older male buyers and younger female sellers. Despite feeling a deep sense of moral outrage, Stephanie faced a dilemma between standing up for her values and fitting into the corporate culture to secure her job and career.
Stephanie’s colleague suggested attending the event but limiting alcohol consumption as a strategy for increased sales. However, the idea of participating in such an event clashed with Stephanie’s values, leading her to experience a debilitating internal conflict. As the youngest participant and the new entrant to the industry, she felt pressured to conform to maintain her job security and make the company she represented look good. “I was the new kid on the block, I was the one trying to fit into this wealthy and elite network of buyers. I was the youngest one there, and in order for my job to remain secure I needed to make the company I represented look good. I needed to fit in. To do anything other than go along with this event would be doing the exact opposite”, she shares.
Ultimately, Stephanie chose to feign illness and abstain from the event, finding a compromise that allowed her to honor her values without jeopardizing her career. This experience marked the first time in her career that Stephanie felt trapped by the masculine-dominated environment, unable to speak up and stand firm in her values.
Following the incident, Stephanie made a vow to herself never to allow such atrocities to happen to her or any other women again. Although she did not have the courage to speak up directly at the time, Stephanie’s colleague eventually addressed the issue, leading to the shutdown of the controversial event. Stephanie’s indirect contribution played a role in creating meaningful social change, reinforcing her commitment to preventing such situations in the future.
When asked about the importance of women using their voices to advocate for themselves and others. According to her, standing tall for oneself is only part of the vital evolutionary equation. “We rise together. Using our voices and standing tall for ourselves is only one part of this vital evolutionary equation. The more we help each other rise, the further this movement can go”, she says.
Empowering women through advocacy is a catalyst for change, challenging societal stereotypes and norms that perpetuate gender inequality. Advocates actively dismantle harmful biases by sharing personal stories and promoting diverse representation. By leveraging their voices, women influence policies, empower communities, and contribute to a more equitable world. This collective power is reshaping societies, paving the way for a future where every woman’s voice is heard and respected.