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Don’t underestimate the power of visibility

I’m going to neatly step around the political issues surrounding Baroness Thatcher – this isn’t about politics

It also isn’t really about whether she was or wasn’t a feminist – certainly the internet seems fairly inflamed with whether or not she properly was a card-carrying feminist or not

What you can’t get away from is that for a generation of children having a woman run the country was seen as perfectly normal

We don’t all agree with how she did it or what she did whilst in power but consciously or subconsciously we learnt that women could be in charge, could be equal to men and that opportunities weren’t closed off because you were a woman

I don’t think many people, male or female, have the drive to put career so far ahead of family – it takes a particular type of person but perhaps in order to break the mould you do have to be prepared to sacrifice more than others?

What I don’t underestimate is the value of just being seen to be out there

I think it is similar in a normal workplace, if you can see diversity (and ideally diversity in all its broad range of forms) across your organisation then you know that you stand on an equal footing and won’t be regarded as inherently less good at a job because of how you look or how you act in your private life

If you look around your organisation and only see a certain type of person occupying the top ranks and your face doesn’t look the same then it does feel unwelcoming, it does start to feel that perhaps there isn’t a level playing field

I do wonder if workplaces start to self select themselves away from diversity – women look around and don’t see other women, feel that the place is a bit of a boys club and decide to move on and the place becomes more male and a viscous circle starts?

I don’t think the recession is helping much either – jobs are under pressure and presenteeism and competiveness are on the rise. These aren’t traditionally games women excel in and I know of several colleagues who have decided to move on and away rather than keep working in an increasingly toxic environment

The trouble is that each time a woman leaves there is one less face that says it can be done

You just have to look at the statistics to see how far we still have to go – only 22% of MPs are women and only 17.5% of FTSE 100 directors are women

The other more telling statistic is that only 10% of fathers stay at home to look after their children – surely until raising children is seen as an equally valid choice for father or mother we won’t see workplace equality

We need not only to see more women achieving in the workplace but we need to see fathers succeeding at home – don’t underestimate the importance of looking around and seeing diversity, be it in the workplace or in the playground

Trouble is, that nobody ever said it was going to be easy… hopefully by the time our children are raising their children the world will have moved on and my daughters will feel equally happy with a buggy or in the boardroom and so will their husbands

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3 comments to Don’t underestimate the power of visibility

  • Am vehemently nodding in agreement with you once again. I tried to explain who Thatcher was to my two daughters yesterday, and while they didn’t seem particularly interested, I did detect a certain air of “I didn’t know women could be Prime Minister”, which made me even more determined that they would grow up realising that they could do whatever they choose.

    Well said.

  • This line sums it up for me: ‘What you can’t get away from is that for a generation of children having a woman run the country was seen as perfectly normal’. Powerful stuff.

  • AHLondon

    Bloody Brilliant had a similar post about the Iron Lady. I tweeted it earlier today, but the gist was in all the obits, the fact that she was a woman was only significant for her being the first and only woman PM, the rest was all about history and policy–no talk of lipstick or fashion or any of the other stuff they usually cover for women..
    She saw it as refreshing for an American, where the media often obsesses over fashion regardless of expertise, but I recall a year ago or so, someone interviewing the Leaders’ wives, and the conversation quickly turning to clothes. Really, when does it not happen, the girl talk?

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