It was International Women’s Day this week and I was incredibly privileged to hear Sam Mostyn speak about the importance of gender diversity in the workplace, bringing about diversity of thought and ultimately making companies successful via a different point of view. It made me think about how we go about defining success as a woman.
Sam was the first ever woman appointed to the AFL commission, which was a specifically female targeted recruitment process 11 years ago to bring fresh new thinking to the all-male commission.
The process was very gruelling and ten women were put through their paces until Sam was the successful candidate. Unbelievably, she found herself up against opposers who wanted her to justify her position, saying ‘how do I know you were the best candidate when you weren’t up against any men?”. The fact was this was equal to, or even more, gruelling than previous selection processes. And what I loved about the point Sam was making about that was this.
Don’t be afraid.
Be the first.
Balance the scorecard.
Let them say it was a shoo-in if they want to.
Prove the doubters wrong.
Back yourself. All the way.
The IWD theme this year was ‘Pledge for Parity’ and it seems crazy to me that we are still talking about this in 2016. I asked Sam if she thought part of the gap was actually about men being prepared to ask for more. She emphatically said yes and quoted the Hewlett Packard Study that said:
Men would apply for a job if they felt they were 60% qualified. Women had to feel 100% qualified.
ONE HUNDRED PER CENT.
I reflected on my own journey and life and feel as though where I have ended up is a pretty good place in terms of opportunity and seizing chances. It almost wasn’t so though. My change in career at 30 was only because my boss at the time sat me down and encouraged me to do it. I wasn’t going to apply for a management role because I didn’t feel qualified enough. And in truth I wasn’t. But, I got the job and I rose to the occasion, sometimes crying in the loo admittedly, but pulling it off, getting some amazing experience and becoming truly confident in my abilities.
Applying for that role changed the trajectory of my life on so many levels and I was SO lucky that I was shoved in the right direction. I found my niche and I’ve enjoyed success because I learnt to back myself all the way.
Defining success as a woman for myself
Now I look to a different kind of success. It was inconceivable to me before I had Frankie that I wouldn’t keep forging my career path. My professional identity was incredibly important to me and was one of the things I really struggled with on maternity leave once the newborn fog had lifted. Who the fuck was I because I sure as hell was not ‘professional mum’. It was a bizarre mixture of insecurities and uncertainty and is part of the reason I started this blog. I needed an outlet, something creative and something that was part of the ‘new’ me.
Now success looks like how I can run my family life and still be effective at work. I’m lucky that my workplace is flexible and I’m very strict about getting out on time and not touching my phone or laptop on my non-work day.
And sometimes it’s a struggle.
The house doesn’t feel clean enough or I’m not being creative enough on my day with Frankie or I’m not delivering at work and turning down meetings after 4.30 or missing meetings all together on Wednesdays. But I have to let it go.
I have to remember what’s important.
My family being happy. They actually don’t care if my kitchen cupboard fronts are covered in splashes or there’s hand prints on the glass wardrobe doors. They care about my love, attention and laughter. They care about shared meal times and beach walks and crawling around on the floor being as silly as possible (yeah, even Janis enjoys that to be honest).
Taking care of my body. Making time to move it several times a week, clearing my head and feeling good about myself.
Making, eating and serving my family nourishing food. And that includes family favourites like spag bol as well as super healthy steamed fish and veggies. Balance. Enjoyment. The occasional treat.
Being kind to myself. Through rest, through positive self-talk, through meditating, exercising, writing. Through not letting my inner mean girl pipe up and knock me down. Through not letting external factors get to me – sticking to my own story and no one else’s.
A realistic approach to what’s possible. Getting shit done. And letting shit go. Getting organised, planning things out, prioritising and saying ‘you know what, THIS is what is possible this week, the rest can wait’.
It’s actually incredibly liberating to acknowledge that I have changed and that my naivety before being a mum is funny now I look back. I never thought I’d let work go, and I still turn up and give it my all when I am there but it just isn’t the most important thing to me anymore and if it was all gone tomorrow and what I had left was my family….well….that would be the dream right?!
Sam challenged us as women to make family and flexible work really serve us as people. In as far as I can in a corporate job I believe I have struck that balance and I feel really proud of that. I know though, that ultimately this isn’t my path and juggling a corporate role and family is not what I want to do forever.
I’m proud of myself for taking steps towards making that eventual change. Who knows when it will come but a voice within me told me the time to being the process was now and I’m so glad it did. Training to be a life coach has been the single most life affirming thing I have done. It feels like coming home on so many levels and I can see a future where I can serve women just like me, support them through life’s challenges and live my own best life with my family by my side, able to enjoy them and still live the life we want to live.
*Just as a little end note, while we are talking about pledging for parity, I must once again big up my husband Janis. On ACTUAL International Women’s Day I was very late for once leaving work but through choice, because I was chatting to Sam post speech and enjoying the excitement of the day and discussion. I would have just about made it to pick up Frankie but very late, so Janis who was not on pick up duty, got on his bike, rode to where I parked the car, left his bike there, drove to get Frankie, picked me up on the way back through, handed me the car, walked back to his bike and rode home. Then made dinner. That, my friends, is parity in action, what a total ledge.