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10 Jul 2017, Posted by admin in Women

Is perfection or reality the most helpful inspiration for the next generation of women in business?

Very recently I found myself at Cannes Lions (the festival of creativity). There I was, in a queue of incredible women, about to go on stage, to in-part our collective wisdom to an audience of young women as part of the See It Be It mentoring scheme. It was both a profound honour and quite frankly a bit of an eye opener.  One-by-one, a line of highly accomplished, vibrant women stood up and talked about their experience.  It was awe inspiring.  And this I quite suddenly realised – as I listened to one pristine CCO in head to toe white linen talk of four kids and four figures – is a problem.

Getting it right can’t all be about, well, getting it right.  Any well-seasoned Gen-Xer will tell you ‘Having It All’, along with The Hoff and unicorns, is the stuff of legends.  Isn’t it time that we presented the warts and all truth about what it takes and looks like to succeed as women in business?  It isn’t all ‘Lean in’ or ‘Lean out’, as with most things in life, there can be a middle ground.  You will need to work hard, but your hair can look like a hen’s bum (occasionally) and you can get sacked (occasionally) and when it comes to family you won’t necessarily feel the obligatory mother’s guilt – there is an upside to getting on a business flight and not seeing your five kids under five.  That the journey to the top maybe less Mount Kilimanjaro and more Alpine with its meanders and plateaus and that is OK.

Funnily enough, the following day, when it came to the one to one mentoring sessions the question I was asked most was, “tell me about the times you messed up.”   “Did it all go to plan?”  “What have you learnt from your mistakes?”  I’d prepared an answer to the anticipated, “help me find a voice in a room of men.” What I experienced was the desire for disclosure and sharing of ‘real’ information at a very human level, and this shouldn’t have been a surprise because we all know this is how women roll.

The inspiration for the next generation of women needs to come from a place of (achievable) reality with a pinch of warmth and humour.   It doesn’t have to be about getting it right and ruling the world.

5 REAL-y useful tips:

Be kind – it is a small interconnected world, and people are hanging around for longer!
Expect the unexpected and roll with it – this is where the magic happens.
You will fuck up, and it will hurt, and it WILL make you better – yes really!
Life balance takes practice – balls will be dropped.
Your career may take off at 40 and not at 20 or 30 (and that doesn’t make you any less successful!)

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