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Writing your own [gender] code.

Writing your own [gender] code.

When you understand what drives the personal motivations of women in leadership, you are better able to develop programs and advise their decisions. For corporate coach, Danielle Dobson, uncovering these motivations meant that she could “create a space for women to be honest about their experiences, and create their own solutions for their own unique context.”

Her framework is best defined through the words of her [then] 11 year-old son, discussing his after school Code-it-Yourself STEM club. He said “I’m the worker person in the family. My [big brother] bosses me around and tells me what to do, but when I’m coding, I’m the one who’s in charge. I get to write my own code.”

This became the starting point for Danielle’s new book, ‘Breaking the Gender Code’, and her business, Code Conversations.

She explores how internal pressures are what drive the high expectations and perfectionism that women place on themselves in both the workplace and at home. After interviewing executives across the corporate space, Danielle discovered what she refers to as, “messages and coding so entrenched in our culture and subconscious that cause us to buy in and create our own pressures.”

In order to break down the gender code, Danielle recommends:


1. Acknowledgement and understanding

According to Danielle, typically, the childhood games of men are based around winning. You take that into a traditional workplace and the hierarchical structure of many corporate settings reinforces this training where rivalry and social activities like friendship can coexist.

For many women, this same competition is seen to strain relationships, inhibiting women from achieving, for fear of losing social connections, “It’s not a gap that women are trying to bridge or lack of strength. It’s acting within a system that we haven’t been trained for.”

It is only after acknowledging that the structures and systems around us play into our levels of perfectionism and over-achieving that we gain relief and can begin to change these structures.


2. Pressure and release

Code Conversations, was borne out of a need to be open about the challenges faced by women. The enthusiasm of women willing to share their experiences was unexpected, and something that Danielle equates with the reality that sometimes the higher you achieve in a corporate setting, the lonelier you can get.

“Most female leaders that I spoke with said that productivity and strategic movement was something they related to,” Danielle says. “A lot of the pressure we face comes down to expectations.”

She sees these expectations as a personal packaging, or metaphorical ribbon and bow that women wrap themselves in, in an expectation of perfectionism that prevents them from moving on to the next opportunity.


3. Leveraging your capabilities

Danielle explains that in order to reach high performance goals and overcome social and cultural conditioning, we must look to the capabilities and values we already possess.

You start with your own unique context: what do you have around you? Who is there to help? What are your personal strengths? Use these as a guide to tap into who you really are, and acknowledge what you actually want, rather than what society expects of you.


At the core of Code Conversations is a mission to show women that the best place to start is to know that, “wherever you are right now is exactly where you need to be.” There is a sense of relief and self-compassion in providing permission during this holding period of Covid-19 to build the strength and resilience that will serve you in your next phase.

To read more about Danielle Dobson and her book, ‘Breaking the Gender Code’, visit the Code Conversations website.