What does success look like for women?

Last night I attended a BIFM Women in FM event at Capita Symonds where Mirella Visser, author of the Female Leadership Paradox, talked about the role of women in organisations and the specific traits and skills women bring to boards.

Visser, a hugely successful businesswoman who has been the first woman on many boards around the world, seemed to be describing success for a woman as a seat on the board of a major organisation.

But what does success look like for women? It’s easy to get bogged down in clichés when you talk about women in business – Nicola Horlick’s book cover depicting her with an FT under one arm and a teddy bear under the other is a classic example.

The reality is that success is very much in the eye of the beholder. For some, it will be staying at home and creating a loving, nurturing environment for their children. For others it will be an all-encompassing career. For most of us it’s something in between those dichotomies with all the juggling and to-do lists that involves.

The important thing for me is that we must respect whatever choices women (and men for that matter) make and support them. Too many women get to their idea of ‘the top’ and then do whatever they can to prevent other women following in their footsteps. Others look down on full-time mums as if they’ve taken the easy option (and as most working mums know, a day in the office is often the easy option).

To ensure that all women achieve their idea of success, women (and men) must support them and create a nurturing, inspiring environment, so whether they’re jetting off to New York to instigate a major takeover,  dashing home early from work to get to parents’ evening, or taking a career break to look after children, they feel accepted and supported in their decision. As @sarabean2 said to me on Twitter “when Dad’s stay home with sick children, proves they care, with Mum’s seen as not reliable” .




Cathy Hayward