Last week I attended the Image Networking Breakfast in the Marker Hotel Dublin. The topic was ‘A woman’s world – the challenges and rewards facing women in business’. The speakers – Lucy Gaffney (Chairperson of Communicorp Group Ltd), Anne O’Leary (CEO of Vodafone Ireland) and Natasha Fennell (Director of Stillwater Communications) gave an honest account of what it’s like to be a woman in business and how they’ve achieved their professional goals. We heard about the real-life challenges of being a working mum and using a (rather loud) breast-pump during a conference call, the issues of equality facing us all and to how we need to be our own hero in our own lives.
I can’t decide if I want to work for these women, have them as a mentor or go out for a glass of wine with them – or all three! Here are some of the key points that I took from the morning (direct quotes are marked by “xx”). Whilst nothing can compare to being there and hearing these women speak in person, I hope you’ll find your own inspiration.
- When going for a promotion at work, “believe that you deserve to be in this race”. You’ve worked hard throughout your career so why would you want to step back to allow someone else to take that position.
- “Ask yourself why you’re so afraid? Why don’t you think you’re good enough?” You are good enough. No-one goes into a job being able to do it to 100%. Accept that there will always be things to learn. And if you get it wrong – what’s the worst that can happen?
- “Silence that little inner critic and try to stop questioning yourself. We’re all afraid of being ‘found out’”. Most of us fear that we’re not good enough, clever enough or tough enough.
- “Be your own hero. No-one else is going to help you other than yourself.”
- “Responsibility is assumed not given”. If you want to take on a larger role or more responsibility do it rather than waiting to be offered the opportunity. Managers love it when people offer to do things out with their role.
- “The only boundaries that we encounter are those we set ourselves”. Do you believe that you can’t do something? Or can’t ask for something? Or are afraid of what might happen? Thinking like this holds us back.
- Look after yourself. You can’t be a ‘Corporate Athlete’ if you’re not taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising and getting rest.
On being a working mum:
- “Life as a working mum is messy. Accept it. Shut up and get on with it”.
- “Can you have it all? You can’t have all of it all of the time. You can have some of it some of the time”. There will be times when your family is your focus and work takes a back seat and vice versa.
- “There were times that I found myself counting up the hours the crèche had spent with my children versus the hours I’d spent with them – and I hear mums doing it all of the time. Stop it. You can’t compare a mother’s love.” No-one will ever take your place.
- “Put your family first – this means you’ll have to get creative with your time and get organised.” You can leave the office early and go home and spend time with your children, and go back online when they are in bed if you need to do some more work. No-one needs to know that you’re in your PJs and having a glass of wine.
- “My son said to me, Mum you working has made me a better man”
- “Life is fluid. A career is linear” There will be times that your life takes you in lots of different directions and your circumstances change. Accept that this is going to happen and that you can step in and step out of your career if you want to. “Returnships – as opposed to Internships – are becoming increasingly common”
On knowing yourself:
- “Take time to understand who you You play many roles – wife, mum, friend, daughter…. As yourself who you are and what is important to you”. You may be brave, afraid, loud, compassionate, impatient, sensitive……. Accept who you are and be true to yourself.
- “You aren’t a man so don’t feel like you have to act like one. Be yourself. Be feminine. Use your talents of emotional intelligence, teamwork and empathy to deliver results”
- Take time to understand who your influencers are. Who are the people who will champion you? Take the time to converse with them so they know who you are. They can’t help you if they don’t know you.
- Find a mentor outside of your department or organisation that you can trust.
On others perceptions of you:
- “Watch out for putting yourself down or undermining your credibility”. Women will often be the first to offer to help out, to take the minutes or to pour the tea/coffee at the meeting – what does this say about you? That’s not to say don’t do it! But be aware of the impression you’re creating.
- Keep growing. “Stay relevant and keep your skills honed. Keep learning”. For example learn about social media, new consumer trends, take a night-class or find a mentor.
- There’s a 14% pay gap between what men and women are paid. At the current rate of change it’ll take another 90 years for women and men to have equal pay for equal jobs. To make a change we need to “stop observing and start doing something about this difference”.
- Whether we like it or not, or realise it or not, there is unconscious bias towards women in the workplace. We need to speak up and make sure our voices are heard.
We need to:
- “Stop the gender wars and work together to make a real change”
- “Have honest truths at home” – share responsibilities for children and running a home
- “Organisational infrastructure” – a lot of organisations pretend they‘re doing something to change its time we got serious about flexible working structures – looking at productivity not presenteeism.
On making change:
This final quote has really made me think “If it’s not you – who? If it’s not now – when?” We all have a responsibility to make change happen – both for ourselves and future generations. Together we can make a difference and be the very best versions of ourselves – as a woman, as an employee and as a mum.
At Mumager we support working mums and their employers. We run open and in-house workshops for mums returning to work from Maternity Leave. Our next open programme is on the18th June. We cover topics ranging from managing guilt, setting boundaries to having difficult conversations. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can also follow us @MumagerIE and on Facebook for daily tips on being a working mum.
To sign up for Image Business Events find out more about upcoming speakers here http://www.image.ie/Events/Business-Events/