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As female faces have shone out from the TV screens with one female participant referring to them as the “Girlie Games”, these 2012 Olympics are being called a real stepping stone for women’s sport. According to an editorial in the Guardian, prior to the Games just “5% of media coverage was given to women’s sports in non-Olympic years, and 0.5% of sponsorship”. With public interest in these dedicated super heroine athletes now at record levels this is surely set to change. This Olympics has been fantastic for women – every national team had female competitors and each sport had female representation. The USA team had more women than men and they even won more medals! Jessica Ennis and the British Golden girls are all fantastic role models for achievement for young girls.

an image from an article illustrating women on boards

This is certainly a shift we need. In this week’s video, my conversation with Dr David Paul highlights the lack of positive role models of women in business. We discussed how the portrayal of women in senior positions is often as surrogate men.  In a recent business magazine article about women on company boards, the illustrations show older women with white hair, playing golf and smoking big fat cigars.  In other words, they are there as women but they are doing the male thing.  This really seems to defeat the object of a woman being on a Board. It seems we cannot express our femininity and bring a woman’s feminine perspective if we are having to play the man’s game and do things the masculine way.

In addition to the Olympics, another high profile event happened this summer when a pregnant Marissa Mayer was hired as CEO of Yahoo. Now that was a bit of a game-changer. Reactions were varied but in general extremely positive.
Among the commentary about this significant appointment there does not seem to be a single other example of a major company recruiting a six months pregnant woman for the top job. A BBC report relayed that  TechCrunch says Mayer may well be “the first ever pregnant CEO of a Fortune 500 tech company” and calls the announcement “trailblazing”. Dr Fiona Moore, a senior lecturer in human resource management at the University of London, was quoted as saying Yahoo’s move is to be celebrated.  “We’re gradually getting towards the realisation that pregnancy and motherhood does not render women unable to do business.”      This is indeed a sign of an important shift !

Here is the fifth video in the series on Feminine Leadership where I am in conversation with Dr David Paul talking about role models for women. See the transcript below ………

The transcript from this interview:

* In a recent article about women on company boards, in the illustrations older women were shown with white hair, playing golf and smoking big fat cigars.  In other words, they are there as women but they are doing the male thing.  This really seems to defeat the object of a woman being on a Board. It seems we cannot express our femininity and bring a woman’s feminine perspective if we are having to play the man’s game and do things the masculine way.
* Who are the well rounded successful business women role models?   Do we have any that the media highlights?  Look at the dysfunctional successful woman in the movie ‘Devil Wears Prada’ and the sacrifices that had to be made for her to be at the top.  We lack of role models of successful women achieving success in a different way.
For example in the UK, Michelle Mone is a very successful business leader who when interviewed recently described herself as very focused and driven, and this seemed to be a key reason that her marriage foundered. It feels like we either have personal success or business success, one or the other but not both.
* Are these the only role models for young women? Girls are being given the impression that they will have to drive themselves so much that they can only have a successful career/business or marriage/life: a choice between one or the other.
* We want success but we don’t want to put the rest of our lives at risk. We need more role models of women who have achieved a better balance.
* David gives two examples of famous women who have achieved some balance.   Meryl Streep combines these 2 roles very well, and talks a lot about work-life balance. Gail Kelly of the Westpac Bank is a woman at the highest level of banking in Australia and also has a family.

* David says the problem is that women see themselves as either/or instead of both/and…  We have to break that down and change it.   We must bring other people in to our business to help us so that we don’t end up doing it all ourselves. He says that when JK Rowling worked on the Harry Potter films she brought in help for that.    The real point here is that we need to look at the models that don’t work, we can’t look at 20th-century models because they don’t work today in the new paradigms.

* It is very difficult for women when the corporate system really does not support motherhood. There are women who do want a family and also they want to express themselves outside the home and realise their potential. They are not given the working hours or ways that support them having young children. So they then make a decision for either/or – that is more the fault of the system.The system does not recognise their value as a woman.

* David says that we have to work from the top down with new policies that create work friendly organisations.   We also have to work from the bottom up and this is what women need to say…… this is what we demand.

Other conversations on video in the series can be found on these blog links:

The importance of feminine qualities in women leaders

More women needed on Boards

We need to change the negative news reporting of women & create clear messages

Women need to find their “gold” inside to drive change