I absolutely love to hear about other Women In Business.
Their stories, their struggles, and their experiences.
But I woke today, finding myself despondent.
I’m feeling exasperated about the absence of inspiring female role models who look, feel, smell like me.
On a boring drive home this Sunday, I googled Helena Morrisey.
Specifically, I googled the question ‘why nine kids?’ 😲
Helena is an uber-successful finance CEO, with nine children, a huge salary, and a lot to say about being a modern woman.
She’s often feted as an example to other women on how to have it all and has recently authored two books, one on careers and one parenting.
There was no answer to why nine, but of course, I followed my nose down the internet spiral and found her parenting blog, filled with advice from Helena and her stay-at-home wife/husband, on the importance of family time and then her Instagram, filled with hundreds of photos of the lithe, attractive millionaire in literally hundreds of designer frocks.
I felt like utter shit. I felt really cross. I felt this was a tone-deaf display to other women.
This is a woman who takes a pro-active stance on helping get 30% female representation on boards.
But she is nothing like me. I don’t take home £1million pound bonuses. I don’t have endless designer frocks or a perfect figure. I struggle to juggle one child in an actively co-parenting family. My son is unlikely to go to Eton and onto Oxford… If she is working full time, how can she possibly give parenting advice?
Most modern women in business do not work in the City. Most of us do not have a stay-at-home husband and tremendous resources.
Being ‘inspired’ by a woman who manages to pump breastmilk around Boardroom meetings and fit in 3 pilates classes a week too, is just not realistic.
It’s all part of the social media bombardment that fuels a genuine sense of inadequacy among many hardworking, hard juggling, real women in business, whose take-home pay is mostly eaten up by nursery fees.
I want a relatable role model in business. Someone with a salary a bit closer to mine, a life a bit less high flying, and a few lumps and bumps, please.
Sheryl Sandberg. She of leaning in.
Another popular thought leader in the women in business movement.
What I love about her is that she has implemented a ‘for us by us’ approach, with the idea of Lean In circles, where women coach each other.
I’m all for this. But I am not for leaning in. It’s not my bag. I want to lean out. I want to dig in.
I want to be able to give work its proper place in my life.
I want space to breathe, to pootle, to parent.
And I think a lot of us, post the Covid Lockdown, whatever our gender, have rediscovered the value of our time. It’s the most precious gift we have.
Lastly, there’s Anita Roddick.
A female founder, a rare breed. Feted as an ethical role model. A woman who set up a business for change and activism. A hippy businesswoman.
That sounds like my kind of lady.
Except my bubble was rudely burst over drinks one day, with an American friend who told me this story.
She had popped into The Body Shop in Berkeley, California. Asked for a deodorant. The woman behind the counter raised an eyebrow and stated that she didn’t sell deodorant. My friend countered – you are The Body Shop, I always buy my deodorant from you.
“We, don’t sell deodorant.”
And so the tale unfolded. Anita Roddick had come into Peggy Short and Jane Saunders store on holiday. The Body Shop.
It had a wonderful eco-concept, using natural oils and refillable tubs and a great brand. Anita was inspired. She came home with fistfuls of products and brochures.
Anita took the brand, the ideas, the visuals, the concept and ran with it. She stole her big ethical business idea from another woman. Then she settled out of court.
How can I hold someone up as a model of ethical business when she stole her business idea from another woman?
All leaders and gurus are also people. They have a shadow, they do dishonest stuff. How come no one talks about this? Why does it not matter in their story?
Are we, as women, so reluctant to be seen to put one another down, that we avoid the blotches on our report card?
I want to meet, speak to and learn from regular Women In Business…
Female entrepreneurs who are perhaps a few years ahead of me.
Who work part-time so they can spend more time with their families, who find time to nurture themselves and their community, who do work that is genuinely valued and don’t receive vastly inflated salaries due to their industry?
I want to hear from those from diverse backgrounds.
Children of migrants and refugees, women of colour.
Women who don’t want to look perfect, who dress for their own comfort, not to convey their power, and who don’t have the resources to employ nannies, tutors, and send their children to the most exclusive schools and colleges.
Women who have original ideas and take action on them to make great stuff happen.
Women who add value to the conversation my friends and I have, about how to juggle real life, at a real level of income in real-time.
Do you know any? Write us at email@example.com. If you match the profile we will be happy to offer you a feature on our blog and a live/ recorded discussion with Erica.
Illustration created by Bojan Spasić.