Every woman should have

By Naomi Simson | Apr 15, 13 03:25 PM

Rather than present more statistics about why society would be a better place with more women in leadership roles - here's what every woman should have and should know.

I have been speaking about the lack of women in leadership for years. Every International Women's day - the statistics are published, articles are written, and nothing happens. I am very grateful that Sheryl Sandberg is leading a strong media campaign and putting together a 'movement' LeanIn.org. It has been a long time since we have seen the women's agenda on the front page of TIme Magazine.

This is a community issue. Many men I speak to are equally frustrated with the cost of childcare, and that their partners are putting their career on hold. The fact is that the majority of Australian women will retire with less than $8000 in their superannuation. Financial freedom gives people choices. Having gone through a divorce two years ago I can attest that - 'A husband' is not a woman's financial plan.

Recently I received a ‘letter to the editor’ in response to my article in The Australian: Role models key to end gender imbalance

"If Naomi Simson‘s goal is to get more women on boards, she should start by not denigrating the role of parenting. The women’s movement has failed in what should have been a prime goal — to recognise and elevate the role of caring — whether it is for young children, the disabled, or the aged. We have a highly feminised carer workforce languishing at the bottom of the pay scale, and capable women facing difficulties returning to the workforce after having ‘wasted’ years bringing up children.

Instead of supporting these women, high profile businesswomen such as Simson compound the problems by categorising the role of parents and carers as something that fails to contribute to society? I can’t think of a better way to contribute to society than raising healthy and confident children. I can’t think of a better way to hone organisational skills, to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and to learn patience and levelheadedness? It is time that powerful women took the lead in elevating the role of parenting, and promoting it as an asset rather than a hindrance to a career." Brigitte Dwyer, Sandgate, Qld

I was glad to hear from Brigitte, because her letter highlights the emotions around the issue of gender and women’s role in the workplace. I do not denigrate the role of parenting - in fact to the contrary - I was the one that gave up my corporate career to be with my children (and I started my business from home so I had the ultimate flexibility).

Nor have I ever said parents or carers fail to contribute to society - quite frankly our society could not function if people did not choose this role - there are not enough options for childcare. Parenting and teaching are one of the greatest contributions we can make, and I concur with Brigitte that the pay scales are not commensurate with the important role all carers play. What my article in The Australian was highlight was how hard it can be for women to contribute back to society through the workplace once they have had children.

The point I make is all about choices. The reality is – currently – after the birth of a second child it becomes even more difficult for parents to manage the expense of childcare and maintain a career. Not everyone has the financial freedom to choose not to take paid work once they become a parent. And while parenting teaches you so many valuable lessons about yourself and your organizational skills, it may not give you the outlet to practice the vital medical skills you studied long and hard for when you specialized in oncology because that is a passion you hold outside of your role as a parent. That is the point: many parents want the flexibility of staying connected to their chosen field because they personally feel that connection helps them be better parents, feeds their passions as well as helping financially.

Brigitte – thank you for adding to the debate. There is no easy answer, and each family has their own set of circumstance. What we seek are choices that work financially. One of my most precious roles is that of parent. But I know I can be a great mother experiencing the joy of parenting as well as working – after all, I started my own business so I could do that.

The following poem was forward to me by a colleague and rather than present more statistics about why society would be a better place with more women in leadership roles – I think this is a positive way to continue the discussion with a poem from Maya Angelou.

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE …
enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to …
something perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour …

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
a youth she’s content to leave behind ...
a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to
retelling it in her old age ...
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…
one friend who always makes her laugh … and one who lets her cry …

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...

a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal,
that will make her guests feel honored …

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ...
a feeling of control over her destiny ...
how to fall in love without losing herself..

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW …
how to quit a job,
break up with a lover,
and confront a friend without;
ruining the friendship ...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ...
when to try harder … and WHEN TO WALK AWAY …

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW …
that she can’t change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents ...
that her childhood may not have been perfec t… but it’s over …

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW …
what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more ...
how to live alone … even if she doesn’t like it …

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ...
whom she can trust,
whom she can’t,
and why she shouldn’t take it personall y…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW …
where to go …
be it to her best friend’s kitchen table ...
or a charming Inn in the woods …
when her soul needs soothing …

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW …
What she can and can’t accomplish in a day …
a month … and a year …


Naomi Simson is the founder and CEO of leading online gift retailer, RedBalloon. Naomi is also a  mother, author, blogger and a truly passionate individual.

Naomi is a Premium member of Business Chicks, connect with her here.

A man is not a financial plan -

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