“Revalue yourself. Identify as an influencer. You are a difference maker. Be undeniable.”
That’s the advice from our special guest and influential woman’s leadership coach, Dion Johnson. Dion was working as a successful director of a Regional Public Health Programme when she realized that she wanted more from life. She is now a positive force guidingwomen in senior leadership roles through professional challenges and onto ever-greater things.
Dion says challenge has been an inevitable part of business for her. As a woman. As a woman of a colour. And as a woman of colour with a facial disfigurement. She sees these types of challenges as a chance to hold a mirror up to ourselves and to become more.
Challenges for women in business
“Challenges are powerful gifts,” she explains, “any difficulty you face gives you the opportunity to look at yourself, your journey so far and to re-evaluate. Why is this challenge there, what do you really want, how do you get it?”
We were keen to ask her about ethnicity and gender pay gaps. Dion believes, “The pay gap is something that we’ve allowed.” That’s because we don’t think highly enough of ourselves. As women, as members of an ethnic group, or as any group who faces discrimination.
The first steps to moving forward is for us all to remember our skills and value, Dion says. “If you find yourself knocking on that door applying for that job then that is a miracle. You are a walking, living, breathing miracle, “she says, adding, “you have survived a systematic beating.”
That means, “you need to walk through that door and negotiate like a man of privilege,” she explains. “Slide the piece of paper across the table and say, ‘this is what I’m worth.’ [Men] know their value and aren’t afraid to ask for more. You need to believe in yourself and see yourself as influential.”
How to succeed in business
Dion believes that ultimately you have to reinvent to overcome. As Buckminster Fuller wrote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
That’s because, “The challenges you’ve faced because of your race or gender have given you a unique and powerful set of skills and values. Ask yourself, what makes you valuable to the organization, why are they lucky to have you?” she explains. To begin, “Stop proving yourself. Find work with meaning. Showcase your difference and how you are going to use it to make a difference,” she adds.
Read more about equality and management in the workplace here.