International women’s day….

I read a fabulous little comment last week on LinkedIn about bossy little 4 year old girls and so, in recognition of International Women’s Day, the day this comment appeared, I thought I would share a few musings on the subject of how to harness all that “bossiness” we possess in buckets when young, without it being seen as a flaw once we become women ……

As a toddler, living abroad, I never found my place at nursery school. I screamed the place down so that my mother was asked, not only to come and collect me, but to not bring me back! I couldn’t understand why I had to be anywhere other than at home where there was so much to do, plenty of lovely food and all in my mother tongue. To her credit, mum never complained that she wasn’t going to have any time to herself, just yet, and accepted it for what it was. If I was happy, she was happy! But the time comes when you don’t have the choice and I had to start attending kindergarten. It wasn’t a smooth introduction. I bawled my eyes out, so loudly, that my older brother would ask to be excused from his class to come and comfort me. After a couple of weeks of this my mother took me to one side at the school gates and explained to me that my behaviour was seriously upsetting my brother and having an effect on his progress in class so, quite simply, I needed to stop these tantrums, right now. Apparently, I put both hands on my hips and said “Alright, I will!” And here began my love of school.

I think what was odd, was that I had always been a confident child out of school, and it’s fair to say that this was probably quite a challenge for my parents at times, especially my mother. She used to relate all my antics in letters to her older sister, who had dedicated her life to the church and had no children of her own. She told me many years later, when I was sharing my frustrations with her over my own daughter’s wilful behaviour, that my aunt had warned her not to “squash my character” by being too firm with me. How insightful that advice was and at times, I should imagine that it took all of my mother’s resolve to follow it.

But I only ever remember being made to feel that I could be anything I chose to be. There were no barriers, only ones I put in the way myself, and in saying that I recognise that I was extremely fortunate to have that. This is the part I find so strange, still, that in modern societies where education is doing all it can to erase the barriers between genders, making it perfectly normal for boys and girls to aspire to any career or profession they choose, that in many respects it’s the home environment that needs to be brought up to speed. There are still far too many stereotypical behaviours to iron out but I feel that we’ll have to wait until the 5 year olds of today, living in family environments where both parents share the domestic duties whether they both work or not, are the parents of tomorrow and in the hiring seats of industry and commerce, before we see the share of top jobs evenly spread. And I really do believe we will get there.

But don’t misunderstand me, because in my view, it’s not about having 50% of any job being filled by women, it’s about having the opportunity and the choice to go for it. I don’t want my daughters to land a job because they are female, and this improves the company stats, I want them to get that job because they are the best candidate. In turn I want my son to appreciate that if a woman pips him to a job, he expects it to be, and accepts it, because she was the best person in the same way as if it were a man. It’s not even just about qualifications and experience. It’s also about team fit and in all my years of working, I have learned that this is often a bigger factor. People can be taught job skills, but social skills or soft skills are hard to teach quickly but are becoming increasingly important in many aspects of work. Girls learn these very young and can appear far more mature and confident as a result. Mums have historically been the ones who arrange, organise, resolve, chastise, and we soak up these behaviours like sponges and as girls are naturally bossier, I feel, then we take on more of these tasks in life.

But that is changing, thankfully! There are always going to be some areas of work that are male dominated, often because of physical pre-disposition, but as long as the jobs are open to all and the applicants have the necessary qualifications, there should be no discrimination.

I appreciate that I have somewhat strayed from the issue of how to harness that wonderful bossiness in little girls and in fact, if I really think about it, little boys have it too, but it’s labelled as naughty, wilful, a handful perhaps? It’s often exactly the same thing. We need to encourage all our children to be the very best they can possibly be and believe that nothing will be put in the way of their goals and dreams that they don’t create themselves. As parents it’s our most important role and with luck, in years to come, we won’t need an International Women’s Day! We won’t need to say, Wow! Hasn’t she done well, for a woman!

Just my thoughts………..

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