Meet Amelia Strother, the international trainer and resilience guru from Canada who is known for her energy and her passion for empowering women. She is a video coach and mentor to women from around the world by night, and runs a leadership development company by day. Below, Amelia shares her best tips for navigating gender bias, and remaining resilient through COVID-19 and beyond.

Following are the excerpts from the interview conducted by Rachita Parameswaran.

Q1. What does lean in mean to you? In your 11 year career journey, has there been one key or big memory/moment etched in your mind for when you had to lean in?

To me “lean in” means embracing the messy, challenging moments of life. Those moments when we can feel our courage and skill sets being tested. Leaning in means acknowledging that discomfort and giving it your all, knowing that often the best moments lie just beyond the tough times.

I feel fortunate that I’ve had many of those moments in my life! Truthfully the time in my career where that has been tested most is being an entrepreneur. There are a million things to do at any given moment, many of them are challenging, and all need prioritizing. It’s made “leaning in” more important than ever in my world, and also more rewarding.

Q2. We, the people of the world today are living a new normal since the COVID-19 pandemic. In uncertain and trying times like these, what have you been doing to build your resilience and what are some suggestions you have for the community to help build resilience to face the now and the future?

I have a few critical resilience strategies that I’ve lent on for a long time. The key to building this skill right now is figuring out what works best for you within the limitations of isolation life. For me, this time has been something of a science experiment with myself, which is honestly what I would encourage everyone to do. Start by thinking of the things that helped give you energy in the past and pick apart all the details you can. As an example, if one of the ways you recovered from a stressful day was having a night out with friends, start by breaking this event down into pieces. All the individual actions such as getting dressed up in an outfit you love, listening to your favourite playlist on the tram into town, having a nice dinner out, etc. When you do this, you’ll find that there is likely a lot you can re-create! So rather than thinking “I can’t go out with friends anymore!” and giving up on that strategy, you can instead get dressed up for dinner, and listen to your favourite playlist, and perhaps put candles on your dinner table to make it feel like a restaurant. Now we’ve turned a pre-COVID strategy into one that still serves us today.

The other aspect of this is experimenting with new things! Our brains are exceptional at adapting to our surroundings. It’s why being on House Party may have been a blast on week 1 of isolation but feels draining on week 6. Isolation life will create different needs for us that we didn’t have before the pandemic hit. So playing with things you haven’t done before and seeing what works for you is also part of the fun.

Finally, if you want to improve your own resilience, come to my workshop on 15 May, 2020! We’ll talk about the ways your brain can sabotage your own resilience, and how to build it as a skill so that you can be at your best. 

Q3. As part of your role in leading training around gender bias, what are the three most common challenges that you have come across that women face at their workplaces? What actions can one take to gradually diminish these challenges?

When boiled right down, the problems I see women face most are that they don’t feel like their leadership is seen or their voices heard. And to top that, many women don’t know what to do to change it. When we face gender bias at work the most common reaction is one of two things: we either beat people back with our feminist stick, or we say nothing because we don’t know what to say (or we don’t want to be that person). The problem is that neither of these approaches is productive. To me the only way we can diminish the effects of gender bias is to talk about it. That’s a big part of what my course teaches – what to say the moment you see gender bias come up, and how to have an open feedback conversation about it after the event has occurred.

When we can create space for both people in the conversation

to feel safe and heard,

that’s when real change happens.

Q4. In our new normal most people today are working remotely. What are some of the key strategies you have adopted to not only be a good co-worker but also a leader during this crisis?

The main one is being intentional about making time to connect with people. When you’re remote you lose the ability to run into someone in the kitchen or hallway and check-in on each other. Even the ability to make eye contact and smile at one another. So I’ve been careful to create time for real connections with people, not just focus on work.

The other piece that’s been important to me through COVID-19 is reminding myself that everyone is at a different stage with this. That means as a leader, I need to be able to adapt my leadership style depending on who I’m talking to. Some people are thriving at home right now, while others are genuinely afraid for their own health or those of their loved ones. It’s always easy to assume that other people feel what we feel, but everyone is in a different place with this, and their feelings can change from one day to another. It’s more important than ever to be able to meet people where they are, in order to give the support they need.

Q5. People say for a woman to succeed in her career, she has to become more masculine in her dealings and behaviour with her colleagues – do you believe so? In your opinion what are some of the key strengths that women bring to the table?

I have been asked this countless times and I absolutely do not believe it to be true. Though sadly I understand why the question is asked. As a society we still associate leadership qualities with men faster than we do with women, which I know can be difficult to navigate.

I also think though, that stereotyping what a man versus a woman brings to leadership is part of the problem. I’ve met extraordinary women who are strong, direct, and visionary, as well as incredible men who are compassionate, empathetic, and kind. To me the best leaders combine both, regardless of the gender they identify with.

Q6. In a movie based on your life, what would the title of the movie be? Which actor would you choose to play your role in the movie?

“To Live Will Be An Awfully Big Adventure” – starring Alicia Vikander

Q7. If you had access to a time machine and were given an option to change your career path entirely, what would you choose to be?

A marine biologist. The ocean and all the amazing animals that live there are fascinating to me. I’d love to help study and protect them.

Q8. What is the one quote that you have been inspired by and live your life by?

When I moved away for university, my mom shared this quote with me and it immediately became a favourite:

“Be bold. When you embark for strange places,

don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore.

I’ve moved many times in my life and each time I find myself in a new place, or am faced with a new challenge, I remember this quote. It reminds me to dive into life and give what I’m doing my all.

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