Mind the gap….?

So, there has been so much conversation regarding #metoo, that it got me thinking about my own experiences…..have I ever been knowingly overlooked for a role because I was a women, have my views been overtaken by a man in a meeting, have I just been viewed as a dumb blonde?

The answer is, maybe but how much of it have I been made aware of?

I do remember being in a meeting where 2 of the men entered the room and asked me to make them a cup of coffee (I was young and naïve), assuming I was the catering staff. What did I do, well of course I made them one swearing and cursing under my breath.  I then sat at the table, taking notes on the meeting so I can recall all the actions that needed to be done.  Another school girl error.  I should have #leanin.

I went home that day and thought about what I could do differently.  Was there a reason why he put me in that position, or should I have been more assertive?

So, I have always been a girly girl (although my best friend is actually a guy). I really enjoy female company and love nothing more than have a few glasses of wine laughing about life, past, present and future.

Before children I didn’t really think about the power of a team, and how working together can actually create more impact than a lone individual.

It’s a known fact that when women go for a job they see everything they can’t do, whilst men, you got it, see everything they can. Why do we need to be 100% perfect to be right for that promotion?

Post having children, it made me recognize the joy I get from helping others in their careers. Getting them to realise their potential, think about their future career paths, and yes, push for that salary increase.  I want to advocate women, be part of the ‘sisterhood’ and mentor and grow girls and women to achieve their full potential.

So it got me thinking, if we all did this in our own small way, what would be the difference in the workplace? Would we have the confidence to direct men to where the coffee cups are?!!

So, no matter how much of a small part I can play, I will never say no to someone who approaches me for career help, whether that be a quick coffee conversation, or mentoring. I make that my personal commitment to the sisterhood!!

Bossy or Assertive???

So I’ll make a confession, as a young girl I was highly competitive. I know in today’s society, and particularly in schools this is a little taboo now, but I always wanted to do the best possible job I could.  I hated it when someone was above me in Maths, for example, and it drove me to go home and work to overtake them, again something else I get from my Dad, please see my previous blog.

I remember at primary school, I was always organising the school dance display, (I do still feel sorry for the teachers that had to sit through this), and organised what we would do at playtime.

To this day I remember some teachers saying, ‘Anouska, stop being so bossy’. I knew what I thought would be good fun, and was explaining this, what that bossy?

Something that still sticks with me is that I never heard, and in fact rarely hear now, someone calling a boy or man bossy.

Today, it is much more about how I perform, the enjoyment I get from working with other people, and the results we can all achieve, although I will secretly admit I still have a drive to succeed!

Now as a working Mum with 2 small children, and with one of each sex, I really think about my role, and the impression I am leaving with them.

My children see me leave for work each morning, but I have explained why. My little boy can now recite why Mummy goes to work, ‘to pay for our food, our house and my toys’!

With both my children I consciously look to use the same language. When either of them are being demanding, yes they are bossy.  When they are being assertive in the right way, I applaud this.

So it got me thinking, if we want gender equality in the workplace, lets use the same language to explain behaviours from when our children are young. ‘Bossy boots’ can apply to both boys and girls, so lets ensure our children see, and hear, this!

Nature or Nurture?….The role of the Father

On my career journey, I’ve often wondered is it nature or nurture that drives who we are. Can we change/adjust, does life events alter our perspective/behaviours, or will we always revert to type?

To really understand this, I have gone back to my early influences, my Mum and Dad. As with many families over 30 years ago, my Mum stayed at home to raise my brother and me, and my Dad went out to work. Mum was the one taking me to all my after school activities, whilst I replayed them to Dad when he got home.

Reflecting on my personal and career drivers today, what has made me desire to have a career like my Dad, but be as nurturing and loving to my children as my Mum.

What I realised is that I was fortunate enough to have 2 very strong individuals guiding me.

My Mum had the strength to stay at home and raise 2 children, something I now realise is a really hard job. She gave me the strength of character, the emotional support I always needed, but also the work ethic.  To ensure we could have a holiday every year, Mum would waitress in our village restaurant to save enough money to take us away every year.  Something I know she was really proud of.

My Dad was pretty progressive. He was a cheerleader for women and always encouraged people to, ‘do their best’.  No matter how long it took, or how much he had to travel for work, he would always take the time to help me with my homework, (ssshhh don’t tell my teachers), listen to how my day went and encourage me to try my hardest.

I saw my Dad leading a company, but always understanding what motivated people, and encouraged them to work harder for him; understanding what was happening in people’s lives and making the appropriate allowances, listening to everyone, no matter what level, to what wasn’t working in the business and being visible, walking the floor and holding regular all business meetings where people could raise any concerns they may have.

Throughout my life, my Dad pushed me to get the best grades possible, reach for that next role but never forget it is other people that can help you achieve this. The latter is certainly something which has taken me a long time to learn!

On reflection, my Dad really was my first mentor; honest, open, challenging and always willing to help.

It is only now he has passed away, I realise how much of an influence Dad’s are on their daughters. They set the first expectation of how girls/women see men treating them.

I therefore encourage all Dads of daughters to tell them they can be anything they want, support them in their life journey and show them that equality really does exist.

First blog post

So why another blog about women in the workplace………?

Since I become an ‘official’ working woman 20 years ago, I can’t think of a single event in my life that has changed my outlook on women in the workplace as much as having children did.

As a Mum of 2 small children, I still congratulate myself each morning, getting out of the door and on the train, without one of the following happening; a) make-up all over my face, b) milk or biscuits over my suit, c) a body part on display!!!

I will be honest, prior to having children, I felt I was a very different woman, focused on the ‘I’. How was ‘I’ going to get ahead, how could ‘I’ get that promotion, and what did ‘I’ need to do to be the best.

Since having 2 small children, its forced me to look at things differently. Patience, calmness and understanding are key with children, so why not with adults?!

This blog is set to share some stories, both serious and hopefully funny, about what I’ve learnt to become a better colleague, leader, wife, Mum and friend.

I will share all the unspoken things we may think but not say, ‘I was actually really excited to go back to work after having children’, sshh, and hopefully provide a perspective on what supporting your fellow women actually means.

Join me each week to hear my thoughts and views, and if you like it, please comment.