Late in 2015, I had the task of organising a table for an event. More importantly an event celebrating women in business. Something that I truly believe in celebrating and supporting.
On this occasion, I wanted to really support and celebrate women who work at a board level, specifically within the not-for-profit sector. So I encouraged my team to look at their contacts and I did the same. I grabbed their attention and said, “Let’s really celebrate this team! I want a list of names of women you know who we could invite!”
And here lies the problem.
I am involved with a number of women’s professional networks and have worked with business owners for eight years. Why was it so hard to find women who hold a senior/board level position? Collectively my team and I really struggled. We came across organisation after organisation, all with male CEOs or chairpersons.
So, I ask why in this day and age, is this still a challenge?
To support our initiative, one of my team wrote a blog on gender equality within small business and I am astonished to see the same challenges lie in all-sized business today.
As a mother of three, a wife, an entrepreneur, a business owner and a leader, the question I ask is can we have it all? And more importantly are we educating the girls of tomorrow and the future, that Yes! You can have it all. Is this the reason that we face less women in higher positions? Is there a feeling that it isn’t possible? Have we made it too difficult to achieve?
I am the first to say that it is not easy. I understand that there is sacrifice and it is a constant balancing act and majority of the time, you do not get it right. However, that does not stop me driving forward and leading a team made up of a majority of women. Leading a dynamic team of young women who are on their own journey, is in itself very humbling. Seeing the passion, determination and courage on a daily basis, proves that you can have it all.
I have always encouraged my children and team to strive for success and more importantly never give up. Never accept mediocre and always challenge ourselves, even if it’s uncomfortable and scary. I am the first to ask for feedback and know that I do not get everything right all the time, for this is when we truly learn the most. At wattsnext, one of our values is “We work on the skinny branches”. We firmly believe that we should challenge ourselves and push ourselves every day.
So again, I ask: Can we as women have it all?
YES! Of course we can! (For the record, I did shout this at my computer.) We must make the conscious decision to chase our dreams, regardless of gender.
As we embark on a new year, I want to challenge you to think about what you want to achieve in 2016. I want you to come up with your own dream-catcher or vision-board and think about everything you ever wanted. Write it down, share it and most importantly achieve it.
Let’s lead by example. We want the women leaders of the future, to observe other women achieving.
As Stephen Covey famously quoted: “If it is meant to be, it is up to me”.
Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.