Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by.
What is one thing women don’t talk enough about?
We don’t talk about our professional or personal ambitions nearly enough because there is often a stigma attached to both! Somewhere along the way, women were socialized to believe, or made to feel guilty for being professionally ambitious. For those women who are mothers, I believe it’s even more pronounced. There is an intense guilt associated with pursuing a thriving and dynamic career, and oftentimes the guilt is intensified by well-meaning people in our own circle of family and friends. As my career started picking up, I struggled along trying to be all things to all people, because anything else seemed unnatural. I watched my friends who had made a conscious effort to stay home with their children, often putting their education on the shelf to prioritize mothering, and I compared my attempts to their realities. I remember this pivotal moment, when in the span of 1 week, both of my children got ill, and me and my spouse both had critical meetings to attend. As we tried to determine who should stay home with them, I realized that both of our career ambitions mattered, and that we simply needed help. Even going through the process of finding that help, which in our case was in-home childcare, was difficult. I had people in my circle wondering out loud what part of parenting I was planning to do if we had full-time assistance with our children! The same angst exists for women who want to pursue personal ambitions and hobbies. While it may be the norm for us to expect men to go out golfing with buddies or colleagues, women can be held to a different standard, or judged more harshly for having and pursuing an interest, a passion, or a calling while leaving their family at home. I have seen this stop some very talented people from being their best selves! I say, let’s have more open discussions about how to rally around women to support them in all of these endeavors. I believe having more choices to be more of our true selves, benefits families and society as a whole.
What does “choose to challenge” mean to you?
If this were a one-word challenge, the word I would use to give meaning to “choose to challenge”, is courage! With every generation and in every nation across the world, there are new opportunities to chip away at the iceberg of women’s inequality, whether the issue is women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, or health and human rights concerns such as female genital mutilation. We all have a responsibility to be courageous in small and large ways, every day. These moments of courage are moments we experience teaching our daughters that they can do anything their male counterparts can do, and instilling the confidence in them not to shrink in the moment they discover they can do it even better. It’s speaking up at work when a male colleague constantly interrupts his female peer, it’s fiercely advocating for women when we see their potential for greatness, it’s putting our money and resources behind women entrepreneurs and their businesses, and sometimes it’s stepping outside of our own corner of the globe to put our efforts toward global crises impacting innocent girls and women. We’re at a pivotal moment in history where women are standing in the face of barriers and pushing harder than ever before to knock them down, bringing down with them the ugly falsehoods that are attached. That’s not to say we’ve arrived. That’s simply to say now that we have this momentum, we need the power of a collective and courageous society to get behind us and PUSH!
How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table?
My perspective of what it means to be ‘at the table’ has shifted with the context of the times. Certainly in the US, the global pandemic has identified a crisis and a pivot point for women in the labour force. Many have had no choice but to exit their careers to care for children, while a spouse or partner continues to work. For those who haven’t left, this is a conversation about career progression and gender roles, which has shifted many women’s ability to give their all in the workplace. Before we can address getting a seat at the table, we have to get women back into the workforce in the numbers we’ve been used to. Beyond that, I think it’s so important that we recognize the key differences that make us women, and bring all of that to the table with us instead of seeking to fit in. Yes, show up and do excellent work. Yes, think strategically about ways to solve problems. Yes, seek out mentors, and diverse opportunities for impact. At the same time, if you bring more of who you are to the conversation, there is a great opportunity for other women, and other people in general, to benefit from your unique perspective. There’s been a lot of recent talk about police confrontations, and how women in law enforcement often bring a different type of empathy with them to a situation that may have escalated, if not for their approach. It’s why some are saying that we need more women in law enforcement, and it’s a fascinating argument. I think the same applies across different industries. We often bring perspectives, skills, and lived experiences and insights into customers and households, and even into managing employees, that are intrinsically valuable. The more we allow those instincts to guide our business interactions, I believe the more we will be successfully seated at the table.
Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.https://indd.adobe.com/embed/bb2678fd-fafb-4e5f-b57b-bbe97612e7cf?startpage=1&allowFullscreen=true