In conversation with Anne Summers last Thursday evening, Elizabeth Broderick – Australia’s Sex Discrimination Minister – said that this is “absolutely” the best time in history to be a woman.
I agree with her.
Opportunities for girls and women to educate themselves are practically boundless. Quality healthcare is highly accessible. We are surrounded by examples of women achieving at the highest levels: we’ve had our first female Prime Minister. In the United States, Hillary Clinton is running for President, proudly putting gender equality at the centre of her campaign.
Yet still, in some workplaces in Australia, women are not paid as much as men for the same work. Women are the subject of sexual harassment. A woman’s contribution is not be taken as seriously as a man’s. Women find it difficult to have a voice around a table.
In some workplaces, there are no women around the table.
The reason for this current state of affairs is complex, entrenched and difficult to overcome.But let’s not get bogged down in that. I’m all for positive action, so let’s focus on the solution. How do we get a seat around the table?
I say: build your own.
It sounds scary. It just might be. But if you’re not scared then you’re probably not truly challenging yourself, and challenge you must if you are to effect real change and growth.
For you, building your own table might mean:
- starting your own business
- writing a blog
- starting your own networking or support group within your workplace or industry
- securing a new client
- connecting with a mentor, or employing a life or business coach
- establishing a new office procedure or efficiency for your workplace
- prioritising your own health and wellbeing and taking steps to change an unhealthy lifestyle.
Getting started is hard. Keeping it up is harder. And coming back for round two when you’ve crashed out in round one is the hardest.
But that’s why women are great at building their own tables. We are dedicated, focused and resilient. We know how to persevere. Who better than a working mum to efficiently manage time, be calm under pressure and creatively resolve conflict? Women work harder because we’ve always had to go the extra mile to prove ourselves. Our standards are higher because we are called to account and explain far more often. We are underestimated by our opponents based on looks alone, which is always a mistake.
Are you expending your valuable energy trying to get a seat at a table that doesn’t really have all that much to offer you? That energy might be better focussed on building your own table, from which you can offer so much to others.