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Author Jo Cribb on why 'Take Your Space' is the book we need NOW

This column originally appeared on

OPINION: If I were one of the 10 000 women who lost their jobs last quarter, I would be pretty mad with the commentary about it.

While the solutions lie – as the commentators rightly say – in things like decreasing the gender segregation of the labour force and increasing the value of work traditionally done by women, these are meaningless when you are trying to pay your rent.

If I was one of the 29 000 women who found themselves ‘underutilised’ in the last quarter (hours cut and not likely to come back in a hurry), I wouldn’t be able to wait for changes in gender norms so I could pay the hire purchase on the fridge.

So what if fourteen diverse, successful women shared how they got ahead: how they kept their confidence, got hired and promoted, got pay rises, stopped being talked over: how they were able to take their space? Real time, real practical advice?

Rachel Petero and I asked the same question. We grilled 14 successful women and the result is the upcoming book Take Your Space: Successful Women Share their Secrets.

They told us that losing a job, or any other major step back knocks the confidence of even the most successful person. They shared a range of ways of keeping going even when we just want to hide under the duvet.

All agreed that we need to stop comparing ourselves to others – it just drains confidence. A trick one woman uses if this happens is to focus on memories of times when she felt strong. Others seek out friends and family who are supportive for a confidence hit and say no to anyone or thing that drains.

Confidence is like a muscle that needs constant exercise, stretching yourself to do things that are uncomfortable, builds confidence.

To pick yourself up after a knock, their advice is to take small steps forward every day. If your experience is the same as theirs, negative thoughts can get in the way of this – what if I fail? Instead of giving in, write the negative thoughts down and then write the counterfactual – what if you succeed?

Waiting until everything is perfect is another thing that gets in the way of taking steps forward. The perfect job probably doesn’t exist, you will never be the perfect weight, or have a tidy enough house, or whatever. Small steps, every day.

It’s hard after a set back to remember your value. Remembering that you have skills, experience, achievements, and this is valuable to an employer, is critical. Make sure you are clear on the value you have to offer and do not downplay or under-estimate your worth.

Navigating through change is hard and all the women interviewed talked about the importance of putting your oxygen mask on first – looking after yourself. Sleep, exercise, asking for help, and doing things that energise you were all part of their plans.

Most importantly all the women shared stories of failure, including business collapses, burn out, or bad relationships and could now see that this was all part of the process of being successful.

COVID is taking the stuffing out of many of us.

But by sharing how to navigate change and disruption, like these women generously have, we can help each other.

By doing so we can start to deny that tufted blue/red ball of a virus the ability to ruin our confidence, our self-worth, well-being or our livelihoods.

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