Time to change the message ladies. Our campaigning for parity at the top is no longer just about glass ceilings, it is about empty pipelines too as the talent pool continues to dry up (see my previous blog on this subject http://janekenyon.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/corporate-uk-why-do-women-walk-away/) and the corporate sector does very little to empower and equip girls with aspirational hammers.
Teenage girls want to be beauticians, pop stars, glamour models, nursery nurses, make up artists, and reality TV celebrities, at best and the few who do opt for a more professional career soon become disillusioned when the job fails to live up to the hype and the ladder becomes impossible to balance everything else on.
How can they be so disinterested in the big jobs, you say? Now, with all the opportunities, the opportunities we have worked so hard to create. How can they shake their head and say no thanks to a career and prefer to stay small, safe and servile?
Well let’s review the evidence………
How do the media and the establishment treat women in power? Women in positions of influence? Women at the top? A few recent examples – Margaret Thatcher was this country’s first and only PM, love her or hate her and/or her policies the abuse directed at her, even in her demise, sends out very clear messages to impressionable young girls. Or consider the death threats and brutal treatment aimed at Caroline Criado Perez as she campaigned to stop women being airbrushed out of history by petitioning government to keep a woman on the five pound note. When women dare to step up and project their voice, attempts are made to silence them from all angles and not just the male driven media, many women get on the band waggon and vilify them for not having kids; having kids and a nanny; being a workaholic; being single or divorced; behaving like a man or being too feminine and so on… Remember the criticism Sheryl Sandberg got when she published her views on women in work LEAN IN?? Not sure I can remember the same abuse directed at ANY man for simply publishing a management book?
So, here is what we are saying to our young girls about the world of work and making it to the top.
‘It takes grit, hard work and the tenacity of a pit bull to get to the top. It is full on, men will hate you for it, and so will lots of women. You will have to make huge sacrifices, struggle finding or keeping a husband and your kids, if you get the chance to plan in a career break, will be a permanent source of grief and guilt. Furthermore once you get to the top, despite doing the same job as the men in said organisation or industry the likelihood of you being paid the same or commanding the same respect is doubtful.’
Not inspiring is it? Oh and lest I forget ‘Every decision you make will be put under a gender microscope; you will need to prove yourself over and over and a social life is out of the question.’
If we do not start sharing our positive, inspiring stories of success to our teenage girls soon we can expect more of them to side step a career or opt out in their twenties. So here is my plea….If you are a successful woman with a positive story to share I urge you to step up and be a role model and if you work for a company that is serious about advancing women then implore them to invest in organisations like www.girlsoutloud.org.uk who work with teenage girls to raise aspirations and create the next generation of female shining stars. Doing nothing is a luxury we can no longer afford!