As I get more and more immersed in diversity and trying to understand what has an impact on the attraction and acceptance of different groups in the workforce, there are a few topics of conversation that keep popping up.
One of those is answering why certain people achieve heights in their careers that seem to be out of reach for others. Is it because they are the best at what they do? Is it because they are extremely committed to their career? Is it because they are practiced magicians when it comes to effectively balancing work and non-work priorities? Or is it, as the question was again posed to me the other day, because they have someone in the background looking after all of their personal responsibilities so they are free to give everything that’s needed to climbing the corporate ladder?
I bought Annabel Crabb’s book ‘The Wife Drought’ as soon as it came out a few years ago, having light bulb moments many times while reading it. If you haven’t yet read it but are interested in what helps people get to the top and how our organisational systems hold certain groups back because of how they operate, I suggest you find a copy and have a read. Not only does it help to illustrate what you can do to help yourself progress in your career, it highlights what things need to change in Australia if we want to make a real impact on the inequality in the professional arena today.
The discussion in the book is centred on that fact that the majority of successful people in Australian politics have someone who Annabel loosely terms a ‘wife’ (they can be male, female, employed, a family member, etc) working hard in the background while they focus on their career. This person is taking care of all of the things a wife was responsible for in the past: making sure that all of the household duties such as cooking, cleaning, child rearing, shopping, dog walking, planning meals, booking in dinner parties, taxi driving, and caring for family members are done. Having someone like this is a significant advantage on the work front and unfortunately, it’s something enjoyed by one of the sexes a lot more frequently than the other.
The great thing about ‘The Wife Drought’ is the balanced perspective it brings. As someone who has a partner working hard in the background so that I can continue to travel away from home most weeks for work, attend a large number of networking and professional development events, and put in long hours in front of my laptop when I finally am home, I know how difficult it is being a man taking on the role of a ‘wife’. Not only do you have to do the significant amount of work at home and balance it with your own professional life like a significant proportion of women out there, but you are subject to constant judgement from the outside world as you don’t fit the profile of a traditional man.
Although there is always going to be a period of transition during which our society is getting used to a new norm such as the male ‘wife’ and the female CEO, the quicker we recognise and address our own internal biases towards what we think normal looks like, the better for everyone. So if you manage a business, a team or are part of one, think about what stereotypes your environment is encouraging and how that may be disadvantaging certain people, particularly those in minority groups who may not have a ‘wife’ at home to help them. Consider things such as your systems, processes, culture, and general employee behaviour. What changes can be made to foster inclusivity? Trust me, there’s plenty out there!
Just quickly before I sign off, I’ve been working in Victoria over the last few months and was pleased to see the news that came out a few days ago. Following other states, AusIMM WIMnet Victoria has been working with the local division of the Minerals Council of Australia to get the state’s own Women in Resources Awards off the ground. Announced last week at AusIMM WIMnet Vic’s inaugural board room lunch with keynote Vanessa Guthrie, the awards will be announced in June after judging. For more information and to apply, click here.
Whether you’re male or female, I hope you had a great International Women’s Day on March 8 and were able to share in a few stories of some of the amazing women of our time. I also hope you’re enjoying some of the valuable events and professional development opportunities being put on by AusIMM WIMnet and other AusIMM Communities of Interest.
See the AusIMM events calendar for more information.