Tuesday was International Women’s Day – though it really should be re-cast as Women’s ‘week’ – not least because it’s been trending all this week already and thus social media has already decreed it.
These last few days have given us an inspiring celebration of women around the world, so it’s only fitting to write a short post about ‘women at work.’ Without wanting to go all David Attenborough on the female of the species, she does, in the course of her career turn from girl to woman. Her needs change, her outlook alters in short and long-term. She responds to her environment, she rebels against it. She is entirely individual in her approach, but she does share some fundamental needs with the rest of her gender and the nature of 2016 allows her to think BIGGER and LOUDER.
Today in 2016, the female attitude to life and work is experiencing rapid evolution. Priorities in the workplace are shifting – nudging further away from the old-school definition of success (leaping into the rat race towards heady financial heights and materialistic gain) and more towards a happy, healthy and fulfilling life across the board.
According to a recent Accenture survey, more than two-thirds of female professionals around the world say they can “have it all”. And what constitutes ‘all’? Here’s what: A fulfilling career demonstrating financial equality with male counterparts, a healthy relationship, a balance between work and home life and the ability to manage time to look after physical and emotional needs and nurture children if she wants to – no matter what. That’s what.
Personal fulfilment comes about by growth, learning and deeper understanding. The definition of fulfilment comes from deep within the individual and is shaped by a number of factors, including personality and environment.
For woman in business, a lack of investment in personal development or lack of a clear career path or plan can stunt personal growth, dampen motivation and creativity and subdue confidence and optimism. The waters of fulfilment run shallow when we don’t grow.
Your mother would say: Ask yourself if you feel fulfilled. What do you want to achieve and how to do you need to re-shape your life in order to achieve it?
Today, over two thirds of working women say that success is all about achieving a balance between work and ‘the rest of life’. What a difference from 10 years ago when salary ruled, followed closely by ‘interesting job’ and ‘responsibility’. Happiness in all its simple glory didn’t really feature on the agenda. Work life balance? Oh, THAT – it’s over there grazing with the unicorn.
Today though – throw your hands up and dance – because balance is very much a defining factor of success. Women aren’t cool about feeling exhausted anymore. There’s a time to give work presentations, a time for gin and tonics and a time to relax with the people you love without guilt or apology. Here’s a fact: Power and money don’t make your friends and children love you more.
Your mother would say: What feels imbalanced in your life? What can you do to redress that balance. Put your coffee down and go lasso that unicorn.
It doesn’t matter who you are, sometimes life is a juggling act. Sometimes you have to throw all the juggling balls in the air and trust that some sense will come of the chaos.
Two out of three working mothers agree that they would like ‘more flexible working conditions’, and thankfully, flexibility has a starring role in the ‘future of work’ – in fact it’s already guest starring in the ‘present of work’. It’s realistic to say that greater flexibility will be crucial for the success of future women in business and their employers will need to follow suit in order to keep hold of the talented women they want to employ.
Spare a thought for those employers who are yelling “we’ve been providing flexible working for years already”. Unfortunately, it’s only now that we’re seeing a way through the stigma attached to this way of working. Many women haven’t taken advantage of flexible working policies as there has been a tendency to penalise – often in ways that are only viewable with an electron microscope. If that tingled your funny bone, it’s probably because you have a sense of it.
The “What Women Want @ Work’ report polled 5,300 professional women between the age of 18 and 65. Results showed that more women rated flexible working over and above good remuneration. Let’s not be idealistic about this though, some of the more traditional industries such as law and finance require considerable ‘face time’ and managing balance can be challenging.
Your mother would say: Your employer needs to be smart about flexibility – but they need guidance from YOU, the employee. You’ve got the power to create a new perspective on work. Why don’t you?
Remote working, flexible working and general connectivity mean that, as long as you have broadband, you’re not out of touch. This can positively apply to a whole plethora of situations – disability, working in remote locations, pregnancy and maternity leave – etc – ad creativitum…
Every human life is made up of milestones and challenges, no matter how big or small they may be perceived to be. Let’s learn to expect and welcome them, concentrating our energies on creating a fulfilling life.
Having children certainly doesn’t mean ‘bowing out’ of a career or ‘slowing down’. Au contraire. In the words of Frida Kahlo, “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
Your mother would say: Keep living with passion, and, when you need to, get creative with your solutions. Voice them confidently.