When we ask the question; ‘How far have we come in the journey to reach equality of the sexes in the business world?’ We need only ponder this thought. It was not until 1918 that women were allowed the right to vote and even then, they needed to be over the age of 30 and qualify by owning land.
1918 Representation of the People Act: The Representation of the People Act of 1918 granted the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification. The same Act gave the vote to all men over the age of 21.
And women had to fight for their equal right to vote alongside men for another ten years.
1928 Equal Franchise Act: The Equal Franchise Act of 1928 granted equal voting rights to women and men. As a result, both men and women could vote at the age of 21.
So, the question begs, where are we in the present time? Where are we one hundred years after the first act was passed?
Recently, I spent the day with Erin Thomas Wong, author of the book, ‘Mumpreneur Evolution, On Our Terms’. The book focuses on twenty-three women who have all decided to begin or remain in business alongside the role of motherhood. The choice is to have both and not an either or. Erin and I talked about the journey that women have been on over the last several decades, from the 1980s when women were starting en masse to fill roles only held by their male counterparts and break the glass ceiling to the present time and how they have navigated the obstacles that have been placed in the way of their growth. Erin spoke with passion about a woman’s ‘Feminine Power’ and the need to fulfil their dreams and goals, but in a way that works for them and their families, something men could learn from.
And I asked the question; ‘How far have we come and how much further do we need to go?’ She said, “There is still work to be done."
She was inspired, as many are, to start a business to feed her creative ambitions and replace an income that had been abundant prior to becoming a mother. The challenge was to create a lifestyle that would allow a woman who chooses to become a mother, the vehicle to create her own path in business. Overcoming stereotypes of mothers in business such as; it’s just a passing phase or it’s nice to have a hobby, were all too common. Little of this was of any help and in general, only supported the thoughts that once a woman has chosen to start a family their professional career is limited if not over.
So, we keep going back to the question; ‘How far have we come?’ Not far enough, it seems.
In the beginning her mentors at networking events were typically men in suites, bearing all of the hallmarks of a club run by men for men. If not knowingly sexist, then at the very least men were absent of the understanding of the responsibilities of motherhood and the background conversation, possibly inherent to mothers;
‘Has my child had breakfast? Do they have PE Tomorrow? Who will take her to the dentist and have they had a bedtime story?’ I’m not saying men, dads, don’t care, we do, but these things are generally not on a loop 24/7 with us.
Just when a mother has found out how to quiet all of these ongoing conversations enough to begin starting her business, she is then accosted by another obstacle, The Imposter Syndrome. Now my experience is that women do not have to market share on this, men suffer from it also, the difference is, men seem to be able to swat it away and then proceed to ‘Fake it, to make it.’ This is not always as great as it may first appear to be, how else do you explain that there has been a plethora of men who seem to rise to positions far above their abilities to carry them out. I point to the political landscape worldwide as proof of that.
Just go to Google and type in ‘The Imposter Syndrome In Women.’ And we can find an abundance of self-doubt, especially in mothers and women of colour. My observations show a landscape much to the contrary though, one only need look to the political landscape at present and it is glaringly obvious that the world leaders who are women and dare we say it ‘Mothers’ have comported themselves with a greater decorum and ability than many of their male counterparts. Many female leaders have shared their visons openly and have made difficult choices with grace, efficiency and compassion, putting those who they are responsible before their personal and political gains.
We should welcome with open arms the feminine power and the revolution that is equality, which I believe cannot come fast enough.