The nature of change means that you have to have something to strive for. In the gender equality debate, these ideals are women such as Sheryl Sandberg or Melissa Mayer – great job, great family life, great life. If they can do it, anyone can….
There are many TED talks with amazing women sharing their experiences of how they have smashed the odds, shattered the glass ceiling and driven their careers faster and further than most mere mortals.
We all stand, stare and applaud. “Wow, well done you.” But do we really think that these heights are really achievable for us? Most of us put these “superwomen” on their pedestals yet we tend not to see so many commonalities.
It makes me think that maybe this cult of celebrity is not what professional women need to help them make those small differences every day.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Sheryl, Melissa et al. are all fabulous and deserve all the accolades they get. Yet I think that we need to find a few more everyday heroines to rally behind, where the steps are smaller and the end goals a little more achievable. To see someone with a similar background making the career steps that you have long dreamed of is something that is just as, or maybe even more powerful than a Silicon Valley superstar.
The reality is that we all have different ambitions. For one woman, becoming a Director would be the height of success. For another, merely being paid the same as her male colleagues would be welcomed. We have all read much about the pay differences across the globe, so let's not get started on that…
So, how do you hear about the more ‘normal’ women who have achieved their goals that resonate with your own?
Social Media may be one of the answers.
It is becoming ever easier to find and connect with people on websites like LinkedIn. People are aware of the benefits of networking, and there are many successful (and normal) women out there who are happy to share their experiences. The more comfortable people get with approaching strangers on the platform, the more they will benefit.
Another solution is a little closer to home.
Many companies are still not investing enough time and resources in creating women-to-women mentoring schemes. It may be the case that management don’t want to highlight an issue that they don’t feel that they have to “fix”, but unless women push for it, it is unlikely to gather momentum. Having coffee and a chat every now and again is one thing, but being able to put aside some quality work time for mentoring is entirely another. This will make a huge difference.
A third idea is merely reading a little bit more. People are writing more content than ever before, and although many of the blogs written by women won’t be directly about gender equality, by reading between the lines, it is possible to glean some great advice.
You don’t need to find the next Sheryl Sandberg to get inspiration – there are plenty more great examples a lot closer to home, with real stories and experiences that are just as powerful and motivating. We should celebrate them more.