Thursday, 3 December 2009

Can you have it all?

Yesterday I had the great privilege of being part of the Network of Black Professionals and the Women's Leadership Network 's new mentee programme for senior women within Further Education. The participants were an impressive collection of women, many of whom were at Vice Principal level looking for tips on how to progress their career that bit further. It was a very interactive session with much of the input coming from the delegates and that could explain in part why there was such a feeling of openness and trust within the room.

I was surprised at how well the section on barriers to career progression went as women really made the most of the opportunity to share the challenges they faced. What saddened me however was the extent to which some of the external pressures had not changed. There were still references to the old boy network in the sense that conversation amongst peers tended to focus on football; huge challenges around family commitments and work/ life balance existed; and the experience of the glass ceiling was common. The most significant finding was the part that self-limiting beliefs played in many cases and/ or a lack of confidence in their own abilities to perform at a more senior level.

This shocked me and also made me realise that there is a place for the work of Minerva's Mind in these type of environments which has a focus on helping people develop their own leadership style and realise along the way that it is their imperfections that make them more accessible to others. It also made me realise how real the struggle is that many Mums face who want to work and have a role in which they are taken seriously alongside providing a loving environment for their family at home. Furthermore confidence or the lack of it is not just the preserve of those Mums who do not go back to work but affects us all wherever we find ourselves on the spectrum of to work or not. It is much clearer why Mums at Director level have decided to choose another path because having it all is a myth.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this post Kate.
    I think all those issues exist (generalisation warning!); men bond by talking about subjects women are not interested in like football/hockey etc, childcare is a huge issue for moms and women actually value family/friend time and work/life balance more than men.
    But like you, I have been at events where it seemed to me that what was really holding women back was not always specific things, but limiting beliefs. And an unwillingness to 'play the game'. And if we don't learn to play the game, then those that do - will win.
    And, of course, there's also the option to change the rules - but that takes courage and a willingness to challenge and be unpopular, something many women are afraid to do...
    I could talk about and expand on this forever, but will leave at this for now: Women face real issues in the workplace, but the biggest issue I see is our limiting beliefs about what we can and are willing to do and say...