I should begin this by saying that when I was asked to put a few words together to celebrate my successes for International Women’s Day, I immediately thought that I was the wrong person to ask. Whenever anyone mentions anything like ‘International Women’s Day’ or ‘Girl Power’, I roll my eyes and mutter things like “so, when’s International Men’s Day?”.
However, that actually got me thinking and maybe that’s the secret of my success throughout life, including my career? I pay little or no attention to gender and just get on with the job!
Throughout my life, I’ve never really considered that gender would hold me back in any way. My parents, who are both very capable people, brought both me and my sister up to not let anything get in our way. We spent our teenage years helping out at their riding stables and it was always assumed that we could just do anything. Drive the tractor? Yes. Move hay bales? Sure. Carry heavy water buckets two at a time? Bring it on. Change a tyre? Absolutely. Our parents used to rely on us to support them no matter the job, whether it being work at the stables or cooking and cleaning at home, we would share the tasks between us.
I can remember being a combination of horrified and greatly amused many years ago, when my friend’s mother had suggested that I shouldn’t fetch in a basket of logs because that was a “man’s job”. I remember saying that there was no such thing as “man jobs” in our house and I’m happy to say that this is still the case today. I’m now married and have children, none of whom will ever be made to think that gender should ever affect ability, be it physical, emotional or intellectual. When my 5-year-old son asks for his toenails painted or says pink is his favourite colour, then great. He’s also making a pretty mean ballet dancer at the moment and will be encouraged to proceed with lessons when and if he wants to. When and if my 3-year-old daughter decides she wants to be a physicist (like my sister) or maybe even a builder, then she will be given every form of support possible to follow any aspirations she has. My husband and I are a team. We don’t have gender specific jobs. We just get everything done between us, depending on who is available at the time and what needs doing, be it cooking, cleaning, laundry, fixing things or looking after the children. We even shared our leave when we had the children, so both of us took a break from our careers and got to spend some precious time with the children.
I follow the same ethos at work. A team only works well if you can recognise people’s strengths. This won’t be achieved (incorrectly) assuming people’s capabilities based on stereotypes. It’s done by having an open mind, seeing people’s abilities and what makes them happy and therefore thrive. Then, working together as a team to get everything done.
In summary, I’d say the secret to success is looking to what you could be capable of, rather than what you feel you should be capable of based on ridiculous stereotypes, whether it be based on gender, age, or anything else for that matter.
Happy International Day to everyone!