Bad Mother?

Some wouldn’t call me Mother of the Year in 2016.

I am almost 17,000 kms away from Madeleine and Louis, my two stunning children (young adults probably a better description at 19 and 17 years respectively however to me they will always be my babies) as I embark on an indulgent opportunity of further knowledge seeking.

I wasn’t even aware when I applied for a place at Harvard that if successful it would take me away on Mothers Day. I didn’t give any thought as I read through the dense academic pre-reading prior to my departure that I wouldn’t be with them today to share a family breakfast and some giggles about the time they were 2 and 4 years old and we were living in….

Selfish? Many may think so.

“Those poor children, she is often away for work”. But this wasn’t even work, this was purely self development and opportunistic pursuit. Worse!

When it was official I had gained a place, the ‘poor children’ seemed proud of my choice and excited, not only by what gifts I would bring back (some things don’t change irrespective of age) but also keen to learn through my observations and experience what the new location, new stimulus and new people I would meet would be like.

We didn’t discuss too much about the program I was embarking on before I left. They were doing their own interesting things which is what we tended to focus most on during the whirlwind of the former week’s comings and goings. They trusted my judgement and assumed it must be meaningful to me if it was taking me half way around the world, and away from them.

But here’s the thing. Everything I do, everything I learn, I do for them. The access to opportunities like attending Harvard, meeting and hearing from incredible people from other parts of the world are gifts I can share.

So what are just some of the key messages I take back after completing the Women and Power program?

  • You can’t be what you can’t see. If we don’t see females in roles of authority, we don’t associate them with these roles.
  • We all have biases. Men and women, explicit and implicit. Being aware of this fact is critical to progress around equality for both genders.
  • Research has found gender is not a reliable predictor of how a person will lead. The gender gap occurs in positions of authority, not in performance.
  • Relationships are critical in helping you progress. Systematically establish and maintain your network but also review it regularly. How diverse is it? What are you doing to help others?
  • You have to work hard to keep winning. It’s the hard work that creates the outcome but it’s confidence that keeps you winning.

For Madeleine, you can be and do anything you want but it isn’t likely to be easy if what you aspire to has traditionally been a role occupied by a male. Don’t let this stop you. You are deserved of authority and a position of power too but recognise if you adopt a style that is deemed more masculine, you will be evaluated negatively.

For Louis, you too can be and do anything you want and if at some stage you choose to take on the role of being the main carer of your small children (like your amazing father did when my job took us to Asia) expect to be judged. Pay no attention to this – your kids are deserved of having their dad present in their lives. Demonstrating caring and warmth may be stereotypical female tendencies but you will be valued greatly by the people who matter (your family) by being around.

Essentially leadership and power has nothing to do with your title. It has nothing to do with authority, seniority or gender either. It is the art of persuasion and the ability to motivate others to make a difference. And every single one of us is capable of this – men and women.

Thank you Maddy and Louis for being the most treasured gifts I could ever have received – you make me very happy and so very proud.

Happy Mothers Day to the many amazing women I know, but especially to Linda, my beautiful, powerful mother and my biggest inspiration.

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