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Time to start celebrating bog standard?

Another week, another woman decides to step up and tell women how they need to change themselves to get ahead

Sheryl Sandberg has waded into the debate around why there are not more women at senior corporate levels by suggesting that women need to stop leaning back from careers and lean right in and keep focused on getting to the top from the moment we graduate

And that probably is a good piece of advice if you are one of the few people, male or female, that is going to rise to the absolute top of their career – these people are focused day and night, irrespective of their lifestyle choices on achieving

The thing is that they aren’t like the rest of us.  Not every single person wants to be the CEO of a FTSE100 company, not every single person wants to be a jetsetter and the big boss.  An awful lot of people want a job that interests and invigorates them but gives them sufficient time and energy to still do other things – career is not the be all and end all for everyone

The trouble is that for women there aren’t a whole lot of visible role models for just being normal – if you want to see some of the 1% of women who have fiercely achieved then yes, there are some role models.  Trouble for me is that in general those women have made massive sacrifices that I just don’t want to make.  My husband won’t give up his career to back mine (and I’m not sure I’d want him to in any case), I don’t want to live a life where I only see my children occasionally and I do want to be able to go out and have fun and to have time when work just isn’t the main focus of my life

Men do have role models for this – they can look around and see generations of other men who have found a balance and have decided not to go for the top but to find somewhere comfortable a bit below there

Women don’t really have this – it often looks as if the choice is stay at home with your children, find a completely new career that you can work around family life or work full out and flat out – and for me none of those really reflects what I want to be

Partly I blame the media – there’s an awful lot of focus on over-achievers telling the rest of womankind how we should try and be more like them

Why can’t we find more examples of normal women, normal mothers, normal wives?

Why can’t we show more women juggling all the aspects of their lives but without all the household support the superstars get?

Why can’t we show that it is hard but rewarding and that normal can be a whole host of different things?

We need people like you and me to be more visible – we need to stop focus on wonder woman and start celebrating wonderful women

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18 comments to Time to start celebrating bog standard?

  • Sophia

    My role models, my Mother and my Gran, honestly the more I learn about their lives the more I admire them both.

  • Couldn’t agree more! I absolutely know what you mean – I love my various jobs and my career is important, but I juggle it alongside family life in a way a top paid celeb or CEO wouldn’t have to. Mind you, I’m still rather be me.

  • Karen

    Great post – I can actually see attitudes slowly starting to change but not sure if that is just the industries I work with. Offering flexible, motivational and supportive environments to work in seems to be a way companies see themselves attracting talent in the future and differentiating themselves from competitors. Interestingly recent research showed that women who choose to set up their own businesses are now out-earning men and creating their own flexible ways of doing business. Also there are some successful role models out there – Lea Paterson at Bank of England and Anna Skoglund at Goldman Sachs who work part-time, I think the UK CEO of Dixons retail is also part-time. I do feel the wheel is turning away from the 9 to 5, five days a week idea of success – for one thing it’s starting to look a bit old-fashioned!!

    • That is brilliant to hear – thing is it isn’t just women wanting flexible working and balance – we’ve seen a real exodus recently because people can find places to work which are recognise that different can work too

      Perhaps there is hope?

  • How is it that yet again you have put into words what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to articulate?

    I do alright, you know: I’m relatively presentable, still (sort of) employed, my children are clean and mostly say please and thank you, my husband and house ditto (although the house hasn’t got brilliant manners).

    But somehow it always feels a bit inadequate: whether it’s my former colleagues making partner (it could have been me), other bloggers being sent to exotic overseas locations (why wasn’t it me), or anyone else being a CEO/Olympic chamption/Oscar winner/published novelist/insert impressive achievement here (the likelihood of it ever having been me was always remote, but…), I’m endlessly thinking that what I do isn’t quite good enough.

    I’m not sure I’m brave enough to stand up and say “I’M GOOD ENOUGH! HELL, I’M BETTER THAN GOOD ENOUGH!”, but I wish someone would…

    Shall we do it together?

  • Brilliant post, am so with you. Wonderful x

  • Great post! It now feels to me like we are deceiving women, encouraging young people into roles to challenge gender stereotypes. It has always seemed like the right thing to do. Until those young women (in the case) go onto have a family. And not only have they fought to challenge the norm, but find themselves so badly looked upon for taking such a choice. And that’s before the career ladder is even considered.
    Women should be celebrated for challenging stereotypes, but not penalised for having to conform when priorities change.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Well said – we need to embrace the fact that today surely normal isn’t a white, middle class, male manager but instead a whole range of different shapes, sizes, genders and colours

  • so true. This kind of talk also devalues the importance of parenting, as if it’s something to be sidelined and not worthy when in fact it is so important for all our futures. It speaks of a society where the one thing that matters is being top of the class, where you’re only good enough if you’re competitive and have the biggest paycheque. It’s only when we value parenting and the caring professions appropriately that both women and men have real choices. You know, the achievers that are not CEOs but teachers or childminders or nurses or doctors or plumbers or parents or whatever, because all of these roles are important in their own right, yet somehow we only look to the private sector when defining achievement.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Totally agree – parenting is something we should be encouraging everyone, male and female parents, to be proud of, to talk about, to be honest about both the challenges and the joys and to be upfront about who priorities change and evolve during your career

  • Tim

    Totally agree. As a father of three who still has career ambitions but equally has no desire to progress beyind a certain level because of the balance I choose to strike between work and family, I’m neither one extreme nor the other and I am always resistant to society’s sterotypes of the working dad. I’m not Career Dad and I’m not Stay-At-Home Dad, I’m somewhere in between and I don’t need (a) a label or (b) some ‘expert’ telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, thanks very much.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Exactly – most people want to pay the mortgage, be secure and still see their children in the working week – it isn’t rocket science but nobody seems to want to tell us about the fact it can be done

  • TheMadHouse

    So well put. I too am GOOD ENOUGH HARRIET. I think we have a lot to learn from the women who went before us. I have started going to a sewing group and I am the youngest by more than a generation and these woman (some of whom lived through the war) are blooming inspirational. I wish I had an older generation in my life still.

    • Hannah Brewer

      You are definitely GOOD ENOUGH

      And yes, wish we could focus more on the inspirational women in our families and learn from them rather than the the whole celebrity rubbish

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