Ladies, lets boom Sisterhood!
A while ago I overheard a conversation. A number of women was talking at the table next to mine and my goodness one of them said: ‘What on earth is still the advantage of being a woman?’ All of a sudden they caught my attention. Another woman said: ‘We earn less, have to get a partner before we are 37 years old, have to have children and a good career by then as well. And childcare always seems to be something for women. Just a while ago our HR department was looking for a woman but although she was the best candidate, she was refused. And you know why? Because while her children were small, she graduated from university with three diplomas. Yes! The HR director – a man – found that she had neglected her children because she must have been studying and never paying attention to them.’ By now they needed me and I said: ‘Ladies, I know these stories but when we tell them this often they will become our stories. So, don’t. We have the chance to make the change.’
See it like this. There are so many men in the market place that it’s difficult for them to make the difference. How on earth can they stand out if there are 75% of men working full time? When they work in companies, they even look like each other despite colour or creed. Women are like black bears in the snow, we need to be seen.
The advantages of Having Women in Deciding Positions
The market knows that it cannot do without women. It has been proven that when there are women on a board, more money is made for several reasons. Shareholders are more positive and believe that the diversity will make the difference. Even people buying your product find it to be important that women are given a rightful place, not just in middle management. In the US it is now no longer something that is a ‘nice to have’, women have a very grateful role to play. Back in Holland where I live, lots of companies are now getting the smirk off their faces and women, all women, are now being asked to step forward.
There are lots of theories why the situation with women is outright bad. The one I liked was that in Holland the men during the First and Second World War not ‘really’ went to war. Holland was neutral in the first one. But for women this meant that they never got the opportunity to spread their wings and take charge. It sounds good but as far as I am concerned it must go deeper than this. I love the fact that despite what the media is telling me, there are lots of women who love doing what they do. Be it caring for children or working part time. As long as it is a choice.
What springs to mind is that in England, a country where women tend to have their children earlier than in the rest of Europe, they have one huge advantage. By the time that they are 40 years old, corporates love them because they already raised children which is considered similar to running a company… now they are ready to take on the job as a manager. Love the idea and I believe that it is true.
Women from Abroad
The Dutch situation is really interesting: 67% of all women in CEO positions come from abroad. And yes, there is an explanation for it as well. Men recruit or hire women at these levels and when a woman is Dutch he sees her as his own wife, sister, mother etcetera and these women in his life have always had problems with childcare. It resonates in his head and he does not want to go through it again, probably he even has a little trauma. However, he decides to choose women from France, Scandinavia and the US because these women have another added advantage… they are prepared to work full time. He also believes that she has childcare taken care of and sorted out. He has a very romantic view of the international woman and she does not disappoint him.
The idea that women should support each other more often is a fact. A while ago I was asked to speak and my message was that just as men support each other without any questions, we should too. Not being able to find women is bogus. They are all over the place. There are even more women around than men. The only challenge is that we are always looking for people who look just like us and if someone is different we don’t want them in our ‘group’.
Then we tend to be harder to women than to men. How often haven’t I heard ‘Well Lucinda, female leadership trainings given by men are more valuable because they can let us see more as women!’ No, not true at all! I have fought to get here where I am. Having this knowledge has cost me lots of investment. Funny enough even if men know less in my field they are seen as exotic. Very challenging… I have come to the conclusion that when a woman dares to show herself, she is amazing and she will always have my support!
The Power of Three
Recently I visited a conference at the University of Erasmus in Rotterdam. A charming professor from the States shared something with us and I liked it. She said: ‘Companies sometimes have one woman on the board and then brag about it that they have ONE! This woman has a very special position; she is constantly in all promotion, goes to all meetings, delivers speeches and gives colour to the company. When you have two women it becomes competition and that creates problems but when there are three women the dynamics change and everything works much better. So ladies, let’s go in groups of three and have fun!
People sometimes ask me ‘Where are these women?’ and I explain that they are all around us. 52% of our population is female but please stop looking for the impossible. I have been in companies where men that were not good enough were given a better position… with more responsibility they would get better understanding!
But let us not become resentful. I believe that we are being accepted like never before and let us aim for the best. I hope that my story encourages you to push on and understand that we have a special task at hand. Understand your advantage, get your board position and go for it! The best advice that I have ever heard is: ‘Just do it.’
Lucinda Douglas , the YES YOU CAN WOMAN
Lucinda Douglas is our surprise guest speaker during the Women in Exhibitions Network in Munich on December 14, 2018. You want to register for the event? Go to our registration page.