A few weeks ago I had the privilege of taking part in a professional women’s day event organised by a local school. The idea was to showcase non stereotypical careers to year 9’s in hope of broadening their mindset on career choices. I was personally impressed with the selection of professions represented appreciating the fact that it’ll be almost impossible to have representation from every single profession under one roof.
Aside myself, as the Scientist / researcher, a few of the other professionals I spoke to were policewomen, bankers, human resource personnel and engineers.
I must say however that in my experience, as much as we had a diverse selection of professions on display, there always seem to be a lack of medics, dentists and vets at these events.
Through the day I pondered over the end result of events like these and how effective they actually are in setting examples for our young girls (and boys). I personally never had any decent career advice or a particular role model who influenced my career choices (a post for another day). I do have professional parents so it was what I knew and the default way to go.
How does one judge how effective these public engagement events are in influencing the ambitions of the next generation and raising aspirations? I concluded that the purpose was a case of leadership by example in hope that 20 years down the line one successful pupil will comment and say “I met a young professional lady at 14 and thought to myself, if she achieved it, then I can do it too. That is certainly what I thrive on today.
I’ve come to identify successful women role models whose achievements I applaud and aspire to follow suit or at least try to.
Reality is, the journey up one’s career ladder is never setting stone. You look out for opportunities, spot an opening and strive to make the most of it. This is the message we should be homing in to our young girls. Fact is it’s a man’s worlds and we have to go the extra mile. As one of my role models once said to me, it’s all good and well saying we need more women in certain professions but truth is most women want the family life and that is where sacrifices are made. “It is for the employers to change their practices not the women”. Work should be about quality not the quantity. I can deliver just as well working part time, working from home, or taking a career break. You probably end up getting more done within your time frame knowing you haven’t got the luxury to spare.
The girls asked me during the professional women’s day – What advise would you give your 14 year old self? My response, – Focus on making the grades, be flexible, look out for opportunities and be ready to go the extra mile.