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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Don’t talk to me about being a woman [Wise Wednesdays]

I had a coaching conversation with a top performing fraud investigator who’s worked for some of the biggest global corporations in the world.

He said he was getting bored with his current job.

On probing deeper, it turns out he has a vision for organisations that put people before profit and prioritise their employee wellbeing. He has a gift for knowing what people need and communicates in a way that generates collaboration and good will. He had some ideas for how to re-orient his career track.

But he was worried about his salary. He had family to support back home and enjoyed a cosy lifestyle.

So he procrastinated and felt that he just didn’t know what to do…


This is the one of the thorniest issues in career change. It’s not an acceptable state for most especially high performers who have a reputation for always knowing what to do.

Yet, creating a new stage of life requires an incubation period followed by experimentation.

Two things to know about the belief “I don’t know what to do”:

Thing 1:

If you’re running an experiment you can’t know the results in advance. That’s bad science, right?

Same with life. Uncertainty is part of the testing and experimentation required in creating the career and life that are truly yours.

Thing 2:

If you repeat “I don’t know what to do” often enough, it becomes an identity. You become the one who doesn’t know what to do. Then it becomes a way to hide from your dreams.

Don’t do that. Stop repeating this sentence. You always know what to do, even if it’s waiting and enjoying what you have until you have an idea. It will often come when you’re not chasing answers.

Legend in the making: Last week, my courageous client Dr Rajna Golubic was awarded lecturer of the year by the Royal College of Physicians. When Rajna contacted me for coaching she was just finishing her third doctorate as an international Gates Scholar in Cambridge (my clients humble me…I only have two doctorates). But she was under the impression that she needed to prove herself as a clinician in the UK system. We quickly dismantled that belief and tapped into a powerful vision and mission for her work which includes improving health at population level by reducing the burden of diabetes and heart disease. Whenever doubts or push back came when she was inspired to apply for funding, ask for time for her research, take a stand for her contribution in teams or leave a role and take a chance on a new opportunity, I reminded her of her bigger mission. And then, the world started to support her vision rather than simply reward her performance. She claimed her expertise and leadership one courageous move at a time. Congratulations, Rajna!


During my career journey, when I was asked about how I felt about my successes from a gender or diversity point of view, I very much took a Margaret Thatcher approach…

When she was asked about what it was like to be a woman in politics, the story goes that she simply replied: Don’t talk to me about being a woman.

While I was never a fan of her politics, that line struck me as it seemed to reflect my own (unintentional) approach. I never really thought about it and just got on with my path. I let go of the “micro-aggressions”.

It's only when I started coaching extraordinary people like Rajna that I could take a more objective view of the enormous challenges:

The cultural and linguistic differences that needed to be navigated.

The biases and assumptions that led to being underestimated.

The misunderstandings that arose from different world views.

They all require courage to navigate, transcend and integrate. Sometimes it feels as if you’re swimming against the tide. Thankfully, there is support along the way too either serendipitously or created intentionally, in the form of mentors, coaches, friends, guides.

But courage was as much about being a woman or non-native as it was about being true to a passion for a vision that wasn’t always popular.


Simon Sinek proposes to redefine the word Vision as Just Cause with 3 defining features:

- Resilience to politics, technology and trends (i.e. it is based on timeless values)

- Inclusiveness

- Service

The fulfilment of your vision for the future may require sacrifice. If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who deeply understands the meaning of sacrifice already.

Living the career and life you truly want - the one that aligns with your deepest values - requires courage.

And you have that. Make sure you deploy it even if it’s by taking one small step in the direction of your dream.

Keep well,


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