Sunday, 16 September 2012

Where are all the women in leadership?

screen grab: BBC 'Women at the Top'

Hilary Devey's recent two part investigation for the BBC has given me some food for thought. I'm a thirty year old who knows that she wants a family, but equally hasn't yet reached full career potential. In the documentary this is the point many young women like myself are leaving the career ladder in droves. I want a career AND a family. But can I have both?
When I was born, my mum made the decision to make sacrifices in her career for her family. A consultant radiologist since her early thirties, she was what Hilary's programme would have set out as a future star for senior management. In the long run, deciding to work part time did affect what she achieved, but she feels it was the right choice. Work life balance in the 80's is not what it is now, and would the decisions my mum made be the same if she was in the same situation today?
For me, I know that my current employer offers excellent maternity benefits and flexible working for parents. That is a huge plus. But equally I also know that my current employer doesn't have a strong career pathway for me. It's a dilemma as a thirty year old to decide whether to risk staying on but hurting my career versus leaving for another company that offers better opportunities but less security. There's a huge sensation of guilt hanging over me as I flim-flam between prioritising career over family then back again.
I came away from both episodes of Hilary's programme feeling inspired. I want it all, and I came away feeling more confident that that is possible to achieve. There needs to be better representation of women in senior management positions, and there needs to be better gender balance throughout companies. The research suggests how much more productive, cooperative and happy gender balanced teams are. And that more revenue is generated as a result. It also looked at the psychology of recruitment, and made me realise I myself don't rate myself highly enough when it comes to looking at my skillset. It has renewed my self belief and equally my motivation to go for what I want, which is the best of both worlds.
Gender balance in the workplace is not going to be achieved overnight, but women need to be confident in their abilities and to work with their employers to see the benefits of providing good work life balance.
I know when my husband and I do get around to having kids I will be more driven to find a way to continue my career path, as I confidently believe that I have it in me!