Saturday, 23 April 2011

Why the Hopes and Dreams of Women Should be as Attainable as those of Men...

'Ah, so you want to work as a magazine journalist in London? That sounds fun... But what about one day when you are older and have children? London and a high-pressure career aren't ideal circumstances for raising a family. You'll have to think about that...' That's what people think when I tell them my Life Plan. They think it, but don't say it, because everyone is so scared, tiptoeing around what does and doesn't constitute anything even beginning to resemble political incorrectness. So how can I know what other people are thinking? Well, perhaps it's something to do with the patronizing glint in their eyes before they try really hard to understand or at least appear to have some level of pride in what they might see as naive ambition. Maybe it's because the pressure which women have been put under with the apparent ultimatum imposed by the terms 'Stay-at-Home-Mum' versus 'Career Woman' in the public eye. Or perhaps it's all down to the fact that I think the same.
How can any woman not feel guilt somewhere deep down inside about spending time away from her baby? Especially in search of what comparatively become selfish desires next to time with your child; money, enjoyment, purpose. Even now, years from having my first child (if the Life Plan is honored of course...) this is something which might not massively impact my career decisions, but definitely plays on my mind in my quiet moments. It's only human instinct, right?
So what about those women who have been portrayed as choosing their careers over their children? What are they like? Well, that's just the thing. Do we really know?
It's still a fact that there are many more men in high-powered, higher-earning positions than women, even now in this 21st century. As sickeningly medieval and unfair as this fact is, it stands to reason that most people don't know enough of the lucky elite of females who's talents have been rewarded with a well-deserved justly-earned management position in order to justifiably generalize what 'they' are like.
So we turn to what we watch, hear and read in the media. Surely I don't have to outline the impression that characters such as The Devil Wears Prada's Miranda Priestly, the 'Diva' caricature of famous female celebrities and even J.K. Rowling's Dolores Umbridge give the world of women in powerful career roles. Yes. I compared the three.
All joking aside, you only really hear about powerful women in the factual sense if they have done something wrong. Think about it. Newspaper headlines such as The Guardian's 'Female Boss or Bossy Female', The Daily Mail's 'Why women find it harder working for a Queen Bee rather than a male boss' and the less serious headline of the same publication, 'Hands off our heels! A tottering female boss stamps down on calls for a ban of 'dangerous and demeaning' stilettos in the office' influence the public opinion of what these women are like. Look to the most famous female leader in history, Margaret Thatcher. Are we to believe that nothing she did made a positive impact, and her quintessentially 'formidable' demeanor was the only thing worth remembering? Because that's the way it would appear.
Are all female leaders bossy bitches in comparison to the collective group of unfalteringly lovely male bosses out there? Probably not. And even if they were, could we really blame them? As if doing something for yourself, namely pursuing a career, as a woman is not hard enough not only emotionally in terms of the sacrifices you will make, but also in some cases mentally and physically (surely the exhaustion of constantly hitting the brick wall of 'you're not a man so you will have to work twice as hard to convince us you deserve this' is quite the challenge) we now also have to face and fight the fact that virtually everyone in the world of work will expect us to be vile based solely on what they are fed by the media's attempt at subliminally inducing negative bias towards our sex. I admit, even I would struggle not to expose the chip on my shoulder when an employer resigned oneself to the idea that the job would be best filled by the lucky female candidate.
I know it should be obvious. But I just want to clearly state that not all women wishing to do well in their careers are power-mad bitches. Nor are they selfish mothers. And why on God's Earth do they have to choose the lesser of two evils in order to fit into one negative stereotype or another???
In this day and age I fully believe that a woman can pursue a successful high-powered management career whilst loving and devoting herself to her family. Sure, it's not easy. I know that if one day I decide that I want it all, my life will not be as I want it to be unless I fully learn numerous skills such as time-management, prioritizing and the ability to do everything I will do with 100% enthusiasm, passion and energy. Nobody said it would be easy! What's a good life if you don't have to work hard for it? A crap life, that's what. A life where you don't appreciate the things you have. A life not worth living, I reckon.
Basically what I am saying is that I know my female readers out there are forward-thinking, intelligent, charismatic, lovely women of the future, and they know it. However, I think we need to talk about it more often! Encourage one another that we aren't just imagining our own potential, or being silly in dreaming about strutting confidently through a happy office knowing that all the people around us are working towards one common goal and that we are leading them in it...
So next time a friend tells us what she want's to do in the future, let's not smile sadly and treat the conversation like a 'What-would-you-do-if-you-had-a-million-pounds' hypothetical question game, but push her! Give her advice, introduce her to the right people and let her know that you have faith in whatever she wants to do. Positive Outcomes Only, right?

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