When I was 32 and working in Manhattan, I was invited to a women’s dinner. It was my first women’s event ever—dinner at a sushi restaurant. We all had to sit on cushions on the floor and I was the only one wearing a skirt! I was also about 15-20 years younger than everyone else, some of whom had been some real crusaders for women’s lib. Did I owe these women a huge debt of thanks, I wondered? But as the evening wore on I became uncomfortable. I felt I didn’t belong. At the end, the facilitator exhorted all in attendance to help other women when asked. I bit my lip, thinking if anybody asked, male or female, I would help them. I wouldn’t discriminate against men. We then each had to share our views at the end, going around in the circle. I couldn’t think of anything else, so I asked my question, “If I’m asked for help by anyone, I’d help them, why would I particularly need to help women?” Needless to say, my question was not positively received! Nor was it answered.
14 years later, I’ve worked with a lot of women execs. I realize that it isn’t about helping when asked, so much as helping women to ask and to connect. And when you compound this with the factor of über-successful women who are also mothers (i.e., some of the most capable people in the company) they often don’t have time to even think to ask. And events and activities that would help them in their careers are often deemed as things they don’t have time for, because of all their commitments to others, which they also enjoy.
The Exec Mums Forum then, is about forming high-impact, mutually supportive co-coaching relationships for executive women.
In our first meeting we found some common themes in the personal intros:
- Two of us had such poor health when we returned to work after pregnancy that it precipitated a change in role.
- All of us at one time or another have/do harbor a desire to go off and do something completely different.
- Husbands also have their lives, yet each of us is the main breadwinner in the family. That makes career choices even trickier.
We discussed the desire for a change in industry or role. Is this to find the same salary/lifestyle opportunity elsewhere, or to make me more satisfied with my career? Is this a fantasy of escape, or is it real? Each of us have thought about working for ourselves. Would that mean less time or more? We concluded that the longer-term plan has to be a part of our shorter-term thinking. For example, as the kids enter school age, can I find a career that works with school holidays?