Eighteen months ago, I asked my four-year-old daughter what would she like to be when she grows up. She responded without hesitation that she would like to be a princess. Whilst on the outside I supported her choice and told her the importance of education in becoming a princess, on the inside I cringed a bit. Not to exaggerate the situation, but I had a fleeting thought of “What example had I set where this was a viable career choice?”
My Mum and Dad’s Generation
Rewind to the late 1950’s. Very few women were encouraged to complete schooling past Year 10 and career choices for my mother living in rural NSW were limited to nursing, administration work or teaching. These were only seen as a stop gap before marriage and having children.
In fact, it was only in the mid 1960’s that the barring of employment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service was abolished. This restriction meant women of my mother’s generation missed out on permanent and supervisory roles as well as the ability to accumulate superannuation (http://timeline.awava.org.au/archives/264).
On the other hand, the males of that generation had greater career prospects where they were expected to complete schooling to Year 12 and head to university.
The state of the current workplace and leadership levels may have something to do with the career options opened to that generation at that time.
If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up it would have been a mum or a school teacher. I am not sure why, but perhaps it was because they were the only female role models that I was surrounded by in rural Australia.
By the time I graduated in the late 1990’s, the world was really my oyster when it came to career choices. I was lucky to have had parents who strongly encouraged me to go to university and explore careers outside the traditional boundaries.
I have never understood gender discrimination until I had to make choices about balancing my career and family life. The system of full-time work to advance my career did not suit me as a new mother, nor did stalling my career whilst I cared for my young children suit me either. Luckily, I had the choice to be able to start my own businesses.
I have loved every step of where my career has taken me to date, including the ability to serve on a number of boards, which leads me back to a recent conversation I had with my daughter.
The Next Generation
Last week my daughter started asking me hundred questions about what sort of work I do. She then proudly announced that she wants to become a ‘working mum’ just like me. This makes me very proud. Not because I want her to follow in my footsteps. I am proud of the fact that ‘working mum’ is seen as a career choice at her age.
Like any responsible child, she will no doubt change her mind a number of times as she grows. Even if she devotes her adult life to motherhood, I would still be proud of her – because it is a choice she has made and one that she has done freely.
She will grow up being surrounded by many great examples of ‘working mum’s’ and the men who support them. This opens up a door of possibilities and a world that says that you can have it all. You can help raise the next generation of the human population AND contribute to the workplace.
I hope that I can give all my children the confidence that my parents gave me – which is to take risks – to dream big because even if you fail, you have succeeded because at least you tried.
Do you have a similar inspiring story that led you to your career?
Annabel Dolphin is the co-founder of Miles Dolphin Consulting Group which supports business owners and leaders to drive better business performance.
As a human resource professional, Annabel is dedicated to working with leaders to achieve peak performance in themselves and their team. She regularly consults to Directors, CEOs and Executives on various strategic human resource initiatives to improve the productivity and performance of their people within the workplace.
A people person at heart, Annabel uses her knowledge of business strategy and organizational development to help businesses achieve their vision, and has been a speaker to companies and associations on various topics like this.
If you have any specific questions or would like to suggest future blog topics, please do not hesitate to contact Annabel on email@example.com.