I had a brilliant night last night at the Ivy Club where I shared a platform with three spectacular women. The topic was an age old debate about whether women can have a successful career and a family. Crazy right. How can we still be having this debate in 2017.
But it was fascinating to hear the experiences of Viv, Claudette, Julia, and the audience members. The themes that were discussed were on the whole nothing new.
- Employers pre-judging pregnant women and mothers and making future career decisions based on their ‘commitment’
- Lack of flexibility
- Being evaluated on presenteeism rather than outcomes and impact
- Women not being kind to each other and offering a hand up
- The stigma of being defined as a ‘mummy’
But despite all this, what was clear was the progress that has been made over the past 40 years. The experience of Claudette, who’s eldest is 44, is incredibly different to mine with a 15 month old. And this should be celebrated. The progress made should be applauded, but there should be no let up in demanding that businesses and society recognise the importance of women in the workplace and the impact working mums can have.
Julia and Viv both work for themselves. They’ve opted out of the traditional workplace and made a huge success of their careers and home life. This is increasingly an option more and more women are taking as it allows them to define their working patterns and be masters of their own destiny.
My own experience has been nothing but positive. Why? Because I work for an incredibly progressive business. Because my husband is a real partner and shares the childcare responsibilities equally. Because I place value on what I achieve and the impact I have. Because I try to always be present when I’m at work, at home, or at play.
It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it. I love work, I love being a mummy, and I do my best to live every moment of my life.
As a senior business leader, my commitment is to do whatever I can to ensure that women (and men for that matter) have the tools and the confidence to blend careers and lives. No one in 2017 should have to choose between having a successful career and a fulfilled life.
It’s been a crazy few months of work, being a mummy, and trying desperately to find time for friends and me time. As a result I’ve neglected my writing. But I’ve decided that October is as good a time as any to commit to a blog a week.
In the past week I’ve given two 20-30 minute speeches. The first was on leadership in turbulent times, and the second was on how communications can grow your business. I was so nervous before both of them. Key to them being a success was being prepared, and having a point of view. I don’t think you can ever be over prepared.
There was one common theme across both my speeches. Purpose. What is your purpose as a leader? What is your purpose as a brand and an organisation?
It’s not always the easiest of questions to answer. Most people will answer with what they do or how they do it. But what we really need to get to is why we do what we do.
Once you are clear about your purpose, you can have that at the core of everything you do. Guiding decisions you need to make, and keeping you focused. It can also help you decide when you (or you business) is going to stand up and be counted. And that’s more important than ever before.
As I scrolled through twitter today I felt myself getting more and more angry at what was in the news and the venom with which people were interacting with each other. There was the appalling behaviour by the Spanish Government, the lunacy of Donald Trump, the distasteful banner and ‘hangings’ in Manchester, and the usual aggressive tone of political ‘activists’. At worst this is barbaric, at best it is totally unacceptable. I’m still certain that the majority of people all over the world agree that we can’t go on like this. And so we need to be bold, be brave, be generous, be kind, and ultimately stand up and be counted.
So spend some time thinking about what your purpose is and what your willing to stand up for. I certainly intend too.
Life is short and full of surprises. If 2016 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, and not always in a good way.
There has been a rise in me first attitudes all over the world. Everyone is looking for someone to blame for what’s wrong in their own back yard, and it is easier to blame people who are different to them. The difference doesn’t matter. It can be the colour of skin, religion, gender, sexuality, or even just different attitudes to how life should be lived.
The right have done an incredible job of exploiting these fears, while those of us on the centre or the left have been too quiet and too slow to challenge and offer alternatives.
You don’t need to be influencing policy on the national stage to make a difference. In fact, it could be even more powerful if we start with the people closest to us day-to-day. How? See the best in people. Assume that they are doing things for the right reason. Challenge rude or bad behaviour. Reach out and offer help to someone just because you can.
I’m an optimist. I believe that if enough of us can show kindness, to our friends, our family, our colleagues, our community…. if enough of us can be the good we want to see – then that is enough to turn the tide. We’ve been quiet for too long. We’ve been afraid to challenge for too long. What the world needs now is love, and we all have enough of it to drown out the hate currently dominating the news agenda.