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On being a woman in business

March 26, 2015

Today left my city working day a little early to collect my kids from an after-school arrangement as with granddad away I didn’t want them walking home alone.  I viewed this as a ‘parental’ situation, gender-neutral.  It wasn’t that I left a job half done, I had been careful to organise my working hours to be flexible, so that I can be home if I need to or if I wanted to sometimes – another parenting decision as I have kids but it could just as well be a ‘lifestyle’ choice…….

I have rarely felt driven by gender, the exceptions being the time I wanted to have a relationship and eventually get married to a man – being a woman made that easier as when we got married all those years ago man + woman was the only option AND the two times I wanted to get pregnant.  The rest of the time I couldn’t give a rats if I am a woman, man,  wildebeest or carrot – it is inconsequential to my work.

But I live in a gendered world – don’t we all – and as the mother of two daughters (again, which matters little other than the fact I have to teach them about girl biology and stuff) I am sometimes faced with the big issue of gender equality.

The world is unfair with regards to the sexes.  It is possibly less unfair now (in many respects) than it was when I was born and before then but still, the world is unfair.  Being home from work early I got a bit more time with my children and tonight over dinner we touched on the issue of gender equality.  It was interesting that even though we are a fairly gung-ho ‘just do it’ type of family both of my daughters were able to cite very strong personal-experience examples of gender inequality in their lives – why isn’t women’s soccer on free-to-air TV like the men’s,  why are we still hearing that women earn less than men and why do people always comment on a woman’s looks?  Why indeed.

After swapping stories and mulling it over we all decided that the best option for our family (as women) was to avoid getting sucked into the negativity surrounding the issue, refuse to be judged by our gender and basically ‘just do it’ whatever the ‘it’ happened to be, even if that means fighting for ‘it’.

And so to being a woman in business.

I am here, in my own consulting, in part because the corporate boys club didn’t fit me during my 20’s and 30’s.  It would suit me better now as I am better equip to handle myself and others but back then I felt victimized by the boys club culture and it made me angry.  I didn’t want it to be about gender but it’s hard to ignore the ‘elephant in the room’ when it’s strapped to your chest in the form of boobs.   Leaving and figuring out who I was in my own time was the best thing for me.

I don’t know if turning my back on corporate was a brave or stupid thing, whether I could have achieved more by working in the system or by doing what I am now.  What I do know if that now I have the skills, experience and balls to tell anyone that questions how I juggle being a mother with work to ‘piss off’ in a polite, empathetic way of course.

The other thing I’ve noticed about gender-centric thinking is rather than always being the victims of it, women are as much to blame!  After returning to a full-time and quite demanding job 16 weeks after having my first child (leaving hubby at home) it was the WOMEN who questioned how my hubby was coping and asked me if I was sad to be missing all of those important milestones.  Same thing happened when I returned to work after emigrating with my family of four and returning to the workforce with a 4 and 2-year-old – once again hubby took the child-rearing slack while I went to work and left him to ‘manage’ juggling two kids, house cleaning, a part-time ironing job (yes indeed) and a wife that came home from work at 7pm hungry (hunger is a human thing after all).  He did a grand job and still does even though he is now also juggling a full time job with parenting.

Life and my thinking has moved on much since then but one thing has remained constant and that’s my desire to never, ever be marketed as a ‘woman in business’.   You will be pleased to know that I consult with my whole brain and not just the ‘female’ half of it (more bull), that I am quite capable of organising my personal life so that I can put in the long, long, ‘travelling overseas’ hours, that I can represent myself fully and confidently, defend my views and actions and can (very importantly) run a business, turn out great work and make a good profit. I would like to think that I can do all of these things because of a combination of what I’ve learned from a rich and interesting life, my attitude, my stamina and my grit – all qualities of people.

Life is about people

Business is about people

I’m a person


PS: Some women really benefit from female exclusive networking groups, female mentors or female-focused work environments.  I feel that it is great we have these options  but personally, I have just made other choices, choices that I think are neither better or worse than any others, they just happen to suit me best.

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