I stumbled across an article on The Women's Blog on The Guardian today that got me thinking. The article was about the frighteningly low percentage of women in top, board room level jobs. In the US, only 3% of the chief executives running Fortune 500 companies are women and in the UK, just 15% of UK board members are women. Government doesn't fare much better, with just 17% of government ministers in the UK being female.
The article raised an important point: that from a very young age, girls are labelled as 'bossy' while boys are encouraged to lead the way. But is there more to it than that? Why are more women not heading up companies and running the country? Sheryl Sandberg is reported in the article as calling for "girls to be ambitious at work and men to be ambitious at home". Hear hear I say...but...something niggled me.
Now I'm not disputing this point, I do actually agree with it. But I also think, from a personal perspective, that something else is at work to prevent women getting these top jobs.
For me, my career goals changed forever the moment I held my firstborn child in my arms for the very first time. Becoming a mother changed me in ways that I would never have imagined. I think I lost my ambition the day I became I mother.
The trials and tribulations of the office no longer held me so passionately. I still wanted to do a good job, create great work, but at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was rush home for a cuddle and a bedtime story.
When your child has a fever or is refusing antibiotics, office politics just seem so trivial and meaningless. Trying to decide if a brand promise is aligned with a brand proposition and how that fits into a 5 year marketing plan no longer fills me with frisson beyond 4:30pm. Catch me at 8:30am and I'm all over that brand promise, but threaten to interfere with the prospect of bathtime and sleepy cuddles with my boys and you're straight in my bad books.
It's not so much a case of priorities. I'm sure every mother prioritizes her children, I'm not doubting that. But the shareholders I answer to are a 5 year old and an 18 month old. They are my Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer and disappointing them would just be more than I could ever bear.
I guess it's down to balance more than anything. I'm still ambitious, but only to a point. If that point threatens to interfere with my family life, then I'm just not interested.
Which brings us back to the age-old dilemma about having it all...can women truly have it all? Can we be the mothers we want to be while also breaking through that glass ceiling? (Oh, Carrie Bradshaw moment there!)
I'm inclined to say no. Not in my case anyway. Other women seem, from the outside, to manage it. An I'd love to know how they do it! But for me, it's a no. The only board I'll sit on is made of lego.