As my 17 year old daughter enters her final year at school and prepares to step into the wider world of university, travel and work, I ask myself how can I best continue to support her to become a confident woman, secure and comfortable in herself so that her gender does not hold her back.
What can women do to enable each successive generation get closer to full gender equality?
Achieving gender equality, like all social change, does not happen overnight. As I look at the four generations of women in my family we are each a product of our times, and each of us paves the way for our daughter. My grandmother volunteered in the 1960s setting up family planning clinics; my mother graduated and took teaching as career route which allowed for ease of childcare. With a working mother as a role model I have never questioned that I combine work and motherhood so I contribute equally to household income. Yet, like other working women & mothers of my age, I choose to constantly juggle the dual commitment of my career along with the majority of domestic ‘work’ and being as present as possible for my daughter as she grows up. Women have achieved equality in so many ways so far and yet unconscious biases are still at play. I have come to realise my own subconscious belief that I need to ‘do it all’. Sheryl Sandberg offers good advice in her book Lean In: ‘make your partner a true partner’. I also feel the tension in myself of the ‘double bind’, where women can turn down the volume on assertiveness and competence to avoid being seen as pushy and bossy.
So, what legacy do I want to pass on to my daughter, as a young woman in these ‘MeToo’ times with her passionate sense of the equal value of and treatment for women?
I offer her three strands of advice;
Aim high, work hard to do what you love in life, stand up for your beliefs, be heard and believe that you can achieve your potential. Be proud of all you do. Then, in equal measure, be kind and supportive to those all around you, nurture and value them and all they achieve. Find your own way to fully integrate the traits of the best male and female role models; conviction, vision, direction balanced with human connection, listening and empathy.Don't try to do it all at work or home – know when to ask for help, involve others and expect them to take an equal share of the work, and the results!
Above all, as any parent of a teenage girl will know there’s no point telling her all this, to leave my legacy I need to apply my own advice and be the role model I want pass on to her.