Wednesday, 5 December 2012

WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP

Today I attended a very interesting webinar called Women and Leadership. It was held by the Yale School of Management. There were three guests but I can recall the names of only two: Beth Axelrod from E-bay and Linda Mason from Bright Horizons Family Solutions. Why do I remember them the most? Because of two things they mentioned. Here goes the first one: Beth Axelrod talked about behavior when entering the workplace and how women undernegotiate job offers. If I'm not mistaken, women tend to take the job offers without asking for more. She mentioned the compensation package. That is, if this company wants me in their staff, the question I should ask is: what are they going to offer to me in order to compensate all the changes I have to carry out when changing jobs?. That is the compensation package. Women should analyze job offers carefully and negotiate the compensation package. Speaking for myself, I had never thought about something like that. Especially under the working conditions for women in a developing country like Colombia.To my mind, a compensation package could even sound like a joke when I know there are 10 or 15 people behind me who would accept a job offer regardless the amount of responsabilities to take care of or if you get underpaid. For those people behind me in the waiting line in an interview, the most important thing might well be to have a regular income regardless the working conditions. That is why I don't really know what would happen if a woman said to a potential employer, her desired salary would need to include a compensation package! I'm not sure if I'm getting this concept right but last time I tried to negotiate, I just asked to make some corrections (number of students in my course and payment dates)to the contract I was supposed to sign as an online tutor. The answer was No answer! and I still don't quite know what's going to happen there because I haven't neither signed nor received another version of the contract. So, that is only an example to say, it would be so nice to be able to negotiate compensation packages and make companies and employers in Colombia understand the concept!

The second thing they mentioned was what has become an issue for me and for women who are my age: having a family Vs. a succesful professional career. I think this is a complete issue in a place like Colombia where there are very conservative values among families. As soon as I turned 25! people started asking "why haven't you gotten married? where's your spouse? And your children?" Very annoying questions for me since I had set up very specific goals regarding my career. From all mothers I've met during my whole life, I've figure out that finding that balance between a sucessful career and a happy family is one of the most difficult things to achieve. Especially if you end up alone, and the maternity leave in Colombia only lasts about 3 months, for example. If you are lucky, you are going to find your job back and/or good chances to negotiate your schedule.

Now that I've turned 31 and made my mind about not having a family in order to fulfill a career, I see all these women, in the webinar, who are succesfull and have 3 or 2 happy kids at home!! How do they do it?  Well, Linda Mason mentioned she had carried out a research project in which she had interviewed 100 women who were succesful and whose kids were healthy and very happy. Her findings are summarized in the "3 pillars of succesful motherhood". The first one has to do with excellent childcare. Either if you have a great nanny, or an efficient relative or someone you trust or all of the above, it is essential to have someone who does the babysitting work. Beth Axelrod concurred in this one by saying  that if you have someone you trust at home, taking care of your children, you can have the peace of mind to show up at work an focus without any worries. Second, Mason mentioned the importance of having someone with whom you can share the joy of raising-up a child. No matter if it is a spouse, a partner, a sibling, a relative, a close friend, it is important to count on somebody who is really involved in your child's upbringing. Again, Beth Axelrod added how important it is to be mindful when choosing a partner or husband who should be not only a good couple (which is the first aspect you look at when you start dating with a potential one)but a person who is eager to share parenting responsabilities unconditionally and is able to do it efficiently. And last but not least, the third pillar to a successfull motherhood relies on having the support of your employer so you can negotiate upcoming changes like a decent maternity leave or a flexible schedule.

From what I can see, these three pillars basically mean you need a complete team helping you raise your child and having a succesful career. I think it's really hard to do it alone. These ladies are really lucky. They have their complete team to be good Mums and sucessful professionals. But, how do single mothers manage? Do they choose? How do they manage when they are underpaid in non-family friendly workplaces? How do they do it if they are the only income in a family and the only pillar?

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