Of women who rise and close the door behind them: they can do better
Michaela Michaut goes rogue to praise the contribution men have made in her career and challenge “women who rise but close the door behind them” to others.
My personal experience is that on many occasions male counterparts supported and guided me more.
Men are my positive protagonists
For International Women’s Day, I wanted to share the moments that have served as exclamation points in my career; I was keen to highlight tales of the amazing women who gave me my big breaks.
However, what surprised me in reflection was that the protagonist in these milestone events was often a man.
How could this be? I have been surrounded by strong, kind and intelligent women in every workplace I have been in. What I realised, upon deeper examination, was that while I have been fortunate in my career to work alongside such women - and have had the even greater privilege of mentoring and leading such women - there just haven’t been as many who have occupied the senior positions above me to even bestow opportunity in the first place. When they have been, my personal experience is that on many occasions their male counterparts supported and guided me more.
Maybe my experience is unique? Possibly. Did I have one too many iso G&Ts and forget a whole chapter of my career? Also possible. Or maybe, it’s an insight into what a dear friend of mine so eloquently phrased “women who rise but close the door behind them”.
Not just the sisterhood
So, on this IWD, when I know I’m expected to only shout the praises of the sisterhood, I’m going to do something controversial and acknowledge the contribution that men make in supporting women to rise. Yes, it is important to have more women in positions of power, even more so ones committed to elevating other talented women. But as long as that balance is out of whack, it is equally important to have men who value the contributions women make in business and formally recognise potential regardless of the label it falls under.
\In 2016 I was working in digital marketing for an iconic Australian brand. The Digital & Ecommerce Manager (FYI an awesome boss lady) resigned and in the days that followed my CMO called me into a room. He was straight to the point and told me that he was promoting me into the now-vacant team-lead role. He recognised my hard work (which I did), said that I was ready for it (which I was), and that I deserved it (which was true).
I was chuffed with the acknowledgement but VERY surprised. Throughout my career, I’d seen many internal talents overlooked for promotion in preference for “new-blood”, but while his offer felt like a rarity, that wasn’t the surprising part of the situation.
Pregnant and promoted
Rather, it was the fact that this conversation took place a mere six weeks out from me going on maternity leave, for almost a year. “Isn’t this going to be really inconvenient for you?”I asked. “Yes...”, came his honest-as-always reply, “but it’s the right thing to do.”
Many companies write noble values on giant posters, name meeting rooms after them, pay them lip-service, and yet struggle to have those values embodied in the actions of senior leadership. To me, none of the office paraphernalia will ever match the impact of a male executive saying those words to me in that circumstance.
To be rewarded for your talent is one thing, but in a world where women (who want children) are desperately trying to find that sweet spot between family and career, to not be overlooked even when the timing couldn’t seem “worse” …that is unheard of to me.That is a true example of championing someone’s merit.
Good women and good men
Women can break through the glass ceiling successfully but it will take a lot less time if we join forces with the men willing to crack the glass floor from their side. Good people are good people.
My greatest reflection in writing this isn’t: How can I be more grateful to men?”. After all, I wasn’t taken pity on, I worked hard for and deserved what I have achieved in my career. It is: “How can I change the experience for the next generation of women? How can I be an exclamation point on another woman’s career highlights list?”
What am I doing to leave the door open for other women as I rise?
How would you answer?
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