Interview with Dani: Feminism and Women’s Roles in Business and Yoga

I met Dani during my yoga teacher training and we’ve been friends ever since. Having worked in upper management positions for quite a while, she decided to take a new career path so that she could inspire and empower other women. As feminism and the role of women is a highly discussed topic nowaday, I’ve talked to her about it. Read what she has to say about her own experiences, her work and how yoga influences her.

Dear Dani, feminism is a highly topical issue and an important pillar of your work. Why is this topic more important than ever today?

Despite the progress made in recent decades, there are still many areas in which women are disadvantaged. For example, women earn less than men across all sectors. This is known as the gender pay gap. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the difference is 18%. In my view, this is absolutely out of date.

The consequence is, of course, that women are affected by poverty in old age much more often than men. The technical term for this is “gender age gap”.

For me personally, the fact that the proportion of women across all sectors decreases in proportion to the career level is very frightening. This is called the “leaking pipeline”. I find this unbelievable, especially in today’s world, which is characterized by a shortage of skilled workers and enormous entrepreneurial challenges.

The attribution of stereotypical role models or the glass ceiling are also common phenomena in the business world. Unfortunately, I can think of many more examples at this point.

According to the Gender Gap Report, in which the World Economic Forum analyzes the global development of gender equality, it is clear that it will be another 170 years before women and men have the same opportunities if we continue at the current rate.

But we are no longer living in the Middle Ages. In my view, it is therefore more important than ever to actively campaign for equality between men and women now.

It is particularly important for me to say again at this point that feminism is not just about women’s rights. Men also benefit enormously from the movement, for example by breaking down gender-specific role models. Men can free themselves from traditional expectations and lead a more relaxed life. How nice it would be if men were also allowed to talk openly about their feelings and challenges and if that didn’t represent a weakness in society!

In your business, you specialize in coaching women. How did you come up with this idea?

I had been working as an upper management executive since 2009. As a woman, I have had many “unpleasant” experiences in the course of my career. As a student, I was told in the run-up to an important meeting what clothes I should wear to improve the outcome of the negotiation. As I often felt excluded in meetings, which were important for the advancement of my career, I even memorized soccer scores. From today’s perspective, this is completely inauthentic, but at the time it seemed necessary in order to somehow find a place in the group. All too often, I had to suppress my feminine side and be so tough and masculine in order to get ahead. From today’s perspective, with the experience and knowledge I have gained, I would do a lot of things differently.

That is why it is a matter close to my heart to support working women and managers in particular in shaping their career path authentically and more easily. My aim is to empower women in the company.

Who can turn to you?

I coach women who are facing professional challenges. For example, women are experiencing career stagnation or are planning a job change or re-entry. I support clients who want more recognition and visibility at work, are interested in resolving conflicts or need an improved work-life balance and structure in their everyday lives. In my everyday life, I also encounter many working women with fears or self-doubt, which we work through together.

How do you approach a particular issue with a new client?

As women’s needs are very individual, this question is not so easy to answer. I have a free initial consultation with each client, in which we look at the challenges in her job together and identify common goals. I then create an individual coaching plan for each client, which is regularly reviewed and revised. This includes sub-goals and various coaching tools that are used. I draw on a large toolbox for this and use a variety of instruments, e.g: Exercises for a change of perspective, visualization exercises, goal setting techniques or questioning techniques.

You are also a certified yoga teacher. To what extent do the findings from your training and your own practice flow into your coaching sessions?

During my yoga teacher training, I learned many methods that I can use in coaching. In particular, I integrate exercises to reduce stress and strengthen inner balance. Many coaching tools are also about changing your perspective. Here, instructions on visualization and empathy in certain situations, which also play an important role in yoga, are important. I can also incorporate breathing exercises and strategies to strengthen self-confidence or self-love into my coaching sessions.

For me personally and for my concept of my work, however, the holistic approach is the most important unifying element. Yoga is about unity on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. And coaching is also about a holistic approach. For example, for a woman with professional conflicts, her past experiences, her inner attitude, her personal beliefs, her abilities, her knowledge and her relationship with herself also play a role.

As a teacher and practitioner, how do you see the issue of feminism in the yoga world?

As a yoga teacher, I know that the yoga world was historically an exclusive men’s club for a long time. That’s why I’m delighted that millions of women are now practicing yoga.

Men are less likely to be found on yoga teacher training courses or in yoga studios. This is certainly also due to the social stereotype I mentioned earlier. A real man is more likely to play football, right? The feminism movement is committed to breaking down such generalizations and will hopefully open the door to the world of yoga for more men in the future.

However, I find the general image of a yogini questionable. You only have to take a quick look at the world of social media to get a relatively quick impression of what a “woman’s body” should look like. Slim, young, flexible – in any case, the body must be constantly beautified and optimized. Unfortunately, there are also many – very many – yoga teachers who convey this image.

Yoga should help us as women – and also me as a practitioner – to accept ourselves as we are. In yoga, we want to accept where we are and how we feel. I would like the yoga world to be much more about this than about an optimized and well-trained body.

A very important final word. Thank you for the interview, Dani!

Curious for more? Follow Dani on Instagram!

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