Posts tagged Naomi Simson
This blog first appeared on NaomiSimson.com I was particularly interested in establishing if the US experience might be different to the Australian experience. Here is her thoughts..
I was forwarded a news article this week about Facebooks #2 leader: Sheryl Sandberg. She had been at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland – on the eve of Facebooks listing announcement. She has been quoted as saying women need to aim high “Keep your foot on the gas pedal.” I was curious to understand what she meant by this. I definitely don’t believe that women need to ‘give up their femininity’ to succeed. In fact there is nothing worse than trying to do business with an aggressive, pushy woman (or man for that matter).
I considered that perhaps it was a cultural thing. But after listening to her TED talk on the topic (view below) I have to concur that much of what she says does translate to Australia.
This generation we will barely make a dent on the number of women in board rooms around Australia – nor in senior leadership roles – but the point she raises is what do we tell our daughters… and our sons. What lessons do we impart to inspire them to make the choices they want without fear of failure.
Sheryl gives us three insights.
1. ‘Sit at the table’ – this means women need to really participate, make a statement, stand up for themselves – don’t underestimate your own ability. ‘Own your own your success.’ This could be viewed as slightly pushy however how often do women not apply for the job that they don’t have every skill for – whilst their male equivalent would put himself forward.’
There will be sacrifices that we make for playing a bigger game… and these are sacrifices that our brothers wont have to make.
I was having dinner with my daughter (16) and son (14) over the holidays – and my son asked me if I would prefer to be a man or a woman… I instantly responded ‘A woman’ – when he asked the same question of my daughter, after some deliberation she said ‘A man’ when I questioned why she said – ‘they just get everything easier.’ – This saddened me. At such a young age my daughter is already seeing limitations…
2. ‘Make your partner a real partner’ – Sheryl laments that in fact there has been more progress with equality in the workplace than on the domestic front. She said workingwomen work twice as hard on domestic chores and do three times the childcare than their male counterparts. She wonders if it is because from a very young age society puts more pressure on males to succeed. We need to make it easier for males to stay it home – too. Men are not always welcomed at playgroup.
Interesting that a number of years ago I was called up to see the vice principal of my daughters school – as the spirited girl she is she had pushed the boundaries and they wanted to discuss it with me specifically rather than my husband who was the primary after school carer.
This successful female educator said ‘Your daughter just needs to see more of you – you travel a lot for work and she misses you terribly’ – I responded – ‘she does have a parent with her every night of the week; her father…’ She realized what she had just said. Here was one successful career woman telling another that the role model I was being for my daughter was not appropriate. And this was from a leader of a girl’s school – at that point I did ask what they were teaching the girls about financial independence and fulfilling careers…
Stereo typing is very, very hard to change
3. ‘Don’t leave before you leave’ – Sheryl said that in planning for a pregnancy and to have ‘children’ fit neatly into a career often means that women are planning to take time out of their career long before they need to. In fact they might even hold back on a promotion or responsibility because they think ‘I might not be here next year’.
From the moment women think about having a baby…they might be less career focused as such their job may become far less fulfilling. Yet once you have a child at home to return to work is a massive sacrifice. So your job better be rewarding, challenging and you really need to be making a difference because otherwise it is too hard and simply not worth the cost (both financially and emotionally).
If you took your foot off the ‘gas’ too early in your career ie you didn’t take a promotion for instance then this might mean you don’t have the ‘best’ job to return to. I wrote a blog about this very thing some months ago.
I concur with Sheryl – we want to teach our children to make powerful choices on what they want to do. Not what they think is prescribed for them – because that is how it has always been.
Some months ago I was chatting with my friend Margie Hartley and she shared some insights into why there are not more women in senior roles in Australia. Marg facilitates women’s resilience programs and is a coach to executives. She wrote a blog recently about the disappearing pipeline for senior female executives. Following our conversation I wrote the blog post below – which originally appeared on my blog.
The post received a considerable amount of attention and got quite a number of comments…. as a result of that we realized that everyone has a story – and we need to provide a forum for people to share their unique stories – because people tackle the issue of childcare in their own way. Hence this site was born… here is the first post in full…
Free Childcare for All Australians:
As we were chatting I offered that making childcare – including qualified in-home childcare – tax deductible could be an advantage to keeping more women in the workforce. This idea was recently tabled at the Tax Forum by a group called Chief Executive Women, representing nearly 200 business leaders, including highflyers such as Gillian Broadbent, Ita Buttrose, and Janet Holmes a Court.
Of course, this does not take into account those women not attracted to the corporate ladder, but still requiring greater flexibility in childcare, for example nurses working shifts, where the usual 7am opening and 6pm close of a long daycare is no help. Actually, nor is it much support to the corporate working- woman either, given the hours often ‘expected’ in that world.
Another submission made to the Tax Forum by the National Foundation for Women, argues that childcare tax breaks are not the solution, as tax deductibility versus the current childcare rebate would leave some families weekly out of pocket on their childcare fees. Put simply, nurses do not have access to the tax breaks that higher earners in the corporate world can experience.
My friend Marg’s response upped the ante: “What if Australia had free, ie: publically-funded childcare? We have public primary and secondary schools – our economy is changing and public policy needs to change with it.” It’s an interesting idea: public preschools that feed into our publicly-funded primary system.
However this is not a simple issue for under school age children. Every working mother I know talks about the horror of handling school holidays and trying to find appropriate arrangements. Plus coming back to the notion of working hours, services that run outside of school hours are also vital.
Speaking with another woman the other night at the Global Banking Alliance for Women summit – hosted by Gail Kelly – with Penny Wong presenting the 40% female representation on government boards initiative. Much of the conversation around our table at the event was about the ‘juggling’ game that parents play. One woman lamented “I work 4 days a week, I have two pre school children and childcare costs me $40k per year…in POST TAX DOLLARS – I have to earn $70k just to pay for childcare… you have really got to love what you do at work to make it worth working at all.”
That is the point!
Ultimately, as business leaders, we all need to be willing to embrace change and lead by example. Change the notion of what is an appropriate working week. Change leadership expectations and, as Margie writes in her blog: “have leaders demonstrate flexibility that is really flexibility. Not a five-day week squeezed into four days or the ability to work 14 hours a day through technology.”
Let me hear your thoughts on this one…