By Nkiru Olumide-Ojo
Each year, since 1909 the world sets aside a day to celebrate women. Always a themed celebration (this year was pledge to parity), many women support groups or corporates typically organize seminars, conferences, run campaigns, adverts and more as part of this.
Being a female enthusiast, I’m often eager to embrace that day- going from seminar to seminar both listening and sometimes speaking. This year, as I listened to all my favourite women speak I had time to think about what many miss telling the career woman. I heard a lot of the usual and being ‘the usual’ didn’t make it incorrect. I heard the call out to aspire, to inspire, to find mentors, to be Mentees. They couldn’t be more correct, but from where I sit, I do think that whilst this is great- women are fundamentally missing a few key lessons namely:
Career Sponsors will do you a world of good.
Let me define in the context of this female discuss- A mentor is the hand holder that helps you navigate positively towards growth. A sponsor is that person who knows how smart you are and puts in that good word for you that helps you get to the next level- A person who earmarks you for a deliberate forward push. You definitely are worth pushing, have less warts and all. It is in this place, I find there’s a dissonance between what has been said and what is being done. For some reason and unlike men, we shy away from sponsorship. One Leading Lady I admire who amongst other things, is the first lady Chair of the international Institute of Directors; Barbara Judge, is so loud in her message about female sponsorship that at the CNN’s Leading Women interview she reportedly said “They know I stir things up to include females anywhere I go” “and when these females thank me, I say; Don’t thank me, go and do same for another female”. Way to go Ms. Judge!
The Truth about growing a Career and a young family
I have repeatedly told my story of how I struggled to find the truth about balancing a career and a young family. It was instructive that every Senior woman looked dapper, and well put together and I kept asking ‘how they managed to keep it all together’ and no one ever told me that whilst it is bad to miss a PTA, it wasn’t the end of the world as you could catch up afterwards- no one ever warned that feeling guilty as a working mum was a natural. I had to find out myself, one pace at a time. I think it’d help, if Seniors were frank enough to tell younger ladies that keeping their businesses or careers will come at a price as with everything else in life.
You’ve got to get out of your own way.
I listened to Arianna Huffington on CNN’s Leading Women make this point on International Women’s day. Her view was that women are underrepresented at the top because they drop off the corporate ladder. Indeed, the psychology of life does get in the way- people have babies as an example and more often than not, their drive and focus changes.
On the other hand, we let ourselves suffer from impostor syndrome, where we think we aren’t really the ones who have delivered on our work- this is unlike a man who can claim your work too, if you let him. A good friend called me recently to talk about a job she was going for and how she didn’t think she’d get it- I was a bit confused as to if I knew her profile and capabilities better than she did? I did well to remind her and she was indeed reminded that a man would have applied for a job two levels more and felt it ‘was a perfect fit’.
So come on Ladies, I’d hate to spill Madeline Albright’s now very famous quote on what happens with women who don’t support women…I’d encourage you to google it!
Happy International Women’s Day!
–– Nkiru Olumide-Ojo is the co-founder of the lighthouseNetwork a female networking group and a Marketing & Communication Practitioner.