The Real Reason We Don’t Have More Female Executives

Seeking Refuge From the Pain

Feeling short of breath and knowing I was on the verge of tears, I needed refuge. Getting up from my chair in the executive conference room I headed to the only safe place in the office, the bathroom.

Once inside, behind the closed door, I could feel the tears streaming down my face. It wasn’t the kind of ugly cry where you sob and moan. This was the kind of cry you simple cannot hold back. The kind of cry that only comes from your soul in a desperate attempt to get your attention.

It was Friday afternoon and I had spent the last few hours in our weekly staff meeting. As the Corporate Director of Business Operations I reported to the President of the company who was leading the meeting. The last few days I had been working tirelessly (read: 16 hour days) and yet it wasn’t enough. During the meeting I had to explain why we weren’t yet done with our project.

Could It Get Any Worse?

To make matters even worse, I had gone to the ER earlier in the week with unrelenting heart palpitations. My friend was afraid I’d drop dead right there in the office and she didn’t want that on her conscience so she took my hand and said, “Let’s go.”

The doctor said it was just a panic attack.

I should have been relieved and grateful to have a diagnosis, but I was upset and overwhelmed.  This delay just meant we would have to stay even later to finish the project.

The worries rattled around in my brain. I was going to disappoint my boss, I had already disappointed myself, and I felt like a failure. And then came the anger. Angry at my boss for having such unrealistic expectations. Angry at myself for not setting more boundaries…again.

The Story of Every Woman

While I only landed in the ER one time, the rest of this story was repeated many times over. Hiding from the pain of my job was a strategy I had been using for years to try to reconcile the disconnect in my life. I had made work my worth and deep down I knew something had to change.

This story is also not exclusive to me. I know many women, at all levels of their organizations, who struggle with burnout, exhaustion, worry and anxiety. Professional women today face so much pressure to do it all and be it all. All with a smile on their face.

I found out the hard way this doesn’t work. After more than 10 years climbing the corporate ladder right up to the top, with more than half of those being very high stress, I had lost touch with who I really was. And it’s no surprise I had amassed a long list of health complaints as I ravaged my body with long nights, little sleep, and constant stress.

This is an outdated model.

This masculine approach to life and leadership is not sustainable. We must learn to honor the feminine as well.

But most of us were never taught anything except how to do more and achieve more. We learn to judge our life by the number of degrees we have, the job title we landed, and the college we went to. Growing up there were very few role models of women who were firmly rooted in their feminine energy, especially in the corporate world.

The model of do more, achieve more creates a super highway to burnout. This is the real reason we don’t have more female executives. Deep within we recognize this type of environment doesn’t honor our unique feminine energy and so many women end up fleeing their high level positions in search of their soul.

Women are no longer willing to sacrifice themselves for their careers. They are beginning to recognize that there is a better way. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to still be the most powerful, fully expressed version of themselves. It doesn’t mean that it’s not important to set deadlines at work. Nor does it mean that you should stop striving for excellence.

The new Feminine Leadership revolution means that women recognize they can trust their intuition in business. They can prioritize the good of the team over the bottom line. It means they place balance as a priority so they can return to the workplace renewed and refreshed. It means they can grow and develop other leaders through compassion and collaboration.

Re-Emergence of the Feminine

When we honor our feminine energy of creation, collaboration, intuition, and inward renewal we create a well of power, energy and strength that’s always available to us.

There is a reason we need both yin and yang. We need both masculine AND feminine. It’s the divine marriage of the two that will create a world where women are empowered to live and lead from the heart.

As more women awaken to their feminine energy it’s time to reclaim our unique gifts. We can create workplaces that allow us to express ourselves fully. We can become the kind of leaders who are powerful change-agents, focused on BOTH what we can accomplish and who we are being in the process.



Amanda Sowadski is a Life & Leadership Coach for Ambitious Women and the Founder of the Institute for Feminine Leadership. She helps women live and lead from the heart by tapping into their feminine energy. After nearly 15 years in corporate America, achieving a prestigious position, a great title, and a lucrative paycheck she realized there was so much more to life than work. After reconnecting with her soul she created a whole new model of feminine leadership where women can be free to be themselves and achieve the success they desire. When she's not sharing her insights she's laughing, building forts, and skipping with her daughter and husband in Minneapolis, MN.

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