Mary Portas says she lost her identity to get to the top of her career.
Some women have just found it too exhausting and impossible to sustain.
Others have lost intimacy with their children or suffered other relationship breakdowns.
So just how do women take up positions of leadership or support when the world is crying out for more of us at the top?
What do you do when you can’t carry on being Superwoman?
Ask Mary Portas and she thinks the working culture has to change to suit us.
Are women calling time on working like a man?
What’s with the Y fronts Jo?
Jo Martin, wife, mother, doctor, actor, coach and international speaker demonstrated to a room full of hundreds of women how she discovered wearing Y fronts was no joke.
Working in a man’s world and being Superwoman came at a big cost, as it does for many women.
As each stage of her life became more competitive and demanding she pushed herself more, until she might as well be wearing men’s underwear.
And so, it was that a few weeks ago, at the One Woman Conference in London, she put some on (over her trousers) and we all had a jolly good laugh because we understood.
It was funny to watch, but it is a desperate experience. For many of us, the drive to perform harder, faster, and quicker is not part of our nature.
Hammering the opposition doesn’t feel comfortable.
Being a winner at someone else’s expense can be painful.
Working with masculine attitudes, skills and abilities is proving disastrous for some women.
Superwoman syndrome is making us sick and isolated.
But being overlooked and denied authority at work is equally damaging to health. It’s enough to make you think you just can’t win, which, if you don’t have the testosterone, could well be true. And it’s not just about our own health; we have a responsibility to people we interact with.
I’ve heard some horror stories along the way. Bullying female bosses who have left a trail of emasculated men off work and women crying in the loos. And its left some of us with a distinct desire to stay well away from any kind of management position.
Decades of Liberation for what?
Speaking recently during her book tour Mary Portas recalls a humiliating encounter on reality TV with Gordon Ramsey that marked a turning point for Mary Portas (wait for it – it’s at the end of the article)
“Lean In” – a movement to support working women – doesn’t question the linear model of satisfaction and fulfilment sought through a successful career.
Instead, it’s back on the not so merry-go-round of trying to be Superwoman. Mary rejects the whole paradigm. Instead, her manifesto for change is far deeper look at making the working world work for women as well as men. If our ambition is to be happy and fulfilled she says we cannot cut of other aspects of life that are so important: our family, our friends, and our passions.
And it is crazy to imagine the teams of people we work with won͛t also be influenced by these other aspects of their lives. Mary has started to talk about circular ambition. She believes a fulfilled human being is fed by many sources, and work is just one part of a bigger picture.
It is also crazy she says, to pretend the work is not emotional.
We get hurt, excited, bored, scared; the whole spectrum of emotional responses yet somehow, we’ve had to suppress empathy, vulnerability, sadness and kindness to fit the culture of work.
Rather sobering is the price women are paying to fit in.
From statistics cited on the “One of Many” – website:
• 29% of women are treated for a mental health condition
• 60% more women are likely to suffer job stress and burnout than men
• We are less happy than we were 40 years ago
• And our ability to conceive is diminishing
Mind you Mary hasn’t gone all kumbaya on us, she is still a campaigner.
She is sad and angry that gender pay parity is still on the table, and likely to stay there for some time to come.
She’s fed up with the absurdity of women making secret calls to the nanny to check it’s all ok at home.
And she’s up for the challenge of a radical rethink, as all this is going as the World Economic Forum state women make 80% of buying decisions.
Which leaves us at a very exciting/interesting juncture in the working world and poses the question of exactly what do we do about it.
It’s all about the Environmental Fit
The Career Equation®
You may love cooking, be excellent at cooking, and make amazing food that people love, but if you are not in the right environment, you won’t care.
Environmental Fit is the all-encompassing component that needs to be in place for a thriving working life.
This is what we have found to be crucial to understanding how we operate at work.
Our Career Equation model is making an impact in some of the most forward-thinking companies in business today who understand the importance of being able to adapt.
It’s also helping individuals find the missing link to understanding what they need to thrive.
And both Jo and Mary have clocked it, and so have we.
It’s the environment: the culture, values, the people you are with, the common objective – these are crucial factors at play as we hold tight to ride the wave of the fourth industrial revolution.
And it’s not just women who are shaking the cage, millennials are unable to function in a workplace that fails to provide meaning and connection.
Mary has written her book, is out there talking about it, advising young people to ask questions about flexitime, company values, and how personal life combines with working life.
Jo has set up One of Many, an organisation to reconnect women to their feminine power through education, support, and coaching.
We are also doing our share. Through the way, our female-led company sets the tone, facilitates collaboration and welcomes diversity.
And through our women focussed programmes for networks, communities and groups across a wide race of corporates, we are equipping women to be clear about who they are, how they lead and why and how it can be possible to work like a woman.
Soft Skills are coming back strong
What may give this movement powerful traction is that for the first-time soft skills that have been sidelined for so long – at least on the payroll- are now being recognised as important and profitable.
And, as automation takes over more jobs in the traditional male-dominated industries, careers reliant on human creativity and emotional intelligence will become more valued.
So, a great Office Manager who never lets the biscuits run out, listens to each member of staff, and makes each client feel so special they just can’t stop coming back, could start to turn up in the asset column at the end of year accounts.
Watch this great Mary Portas video for more insights on this topic:
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If you want help with working out what environment you need to thrive in, or what you can do as a manager to create better working conditions in your company…let’s talk.