This international women’s day, I reflect on the transformation that is possible when we #choose to accept the challenge from other women. Women in leadership have the power to spur on growth and transform perspectives. Here I share the approaches of 3 female bosses, at different stages of my career and the lessons they taught me.
You were a rebel and made up your own rules. With you, there was a sense that anything was possible. We brainstormed ideas for TV shows and made them happen. You showed me how it was possible to turn a passion into work. You created shows about topics that were close to your heart and partnered with likeminded international broadcasters to fund them. You treated me as an equal. You genuinely valued my input and trusted that I’d solve any challenge thrown at me. “Can you do a budget?” “Book a shoot?” “Write a script?”
You used to say things like “when you have your own team” and “when you are the boss”. You instilled in the teenage me, a sense of confidence, possibility and wanderlust. You said to me, “Your twenties are for exploring. Life is long, there is no need to rush into jobs, relationships, anything. You’ll have your thirties for that. Explore, try things out”.
I took your words to heart. And I’m thankful, for showing me a way of life, that embrace curiosity and with a healthy disregard for other people’s notion of ‘the right path’.
I was pregnant with my daughter. I’d told you I had some news to share. You got us both a cup of tea. I remember being nervous. I was only a year into a new role. I felt guilt, for letting you down. You’d shown nothing but support for me. The meeting room was dark and gloomy. I had butterflies in my tummy. I think you expected what I was going to say. I needed not have been nervous. The news were met with a big hug (remember those).
Fast forward a few weeks and I got a call from you. You were on your way to a well deserved weekend away. You asked me to meet you in Starbucks a couple of tube stops away. There, you gave me another big hug, the news of a considerable pay rise and china mug with bunnies filled with chocolate eggs (it was coming up to Easter).
You said you wanted to incentivise me to come back from maternity leave. I didn’t need the incentive but I will always remember that act of appreciation that hit all the right notes; presence, practicality and humanity. I still have the bunny mug. It’s a reminder of an inspiring boss who believed in and championed me.
I returned to work 5 months after the birth of my son. You were new in the role. Rearing to go. I was too. I loved those early days of articulating the ambition for a new venture, of drawing up the plan and the initiatives that would underpin it.
You used to do a sign with your hands in meetings – a triangle – as a nudge to keep it brief – no more than three points (a reference to our media training). So I won’t.
You delegated and expected delivery. You were refreshingly hands off. It was all about the output and not the methods. You asked “What’s stopping you”, “How are you going to do it?”, “What next?'” trusting that I had the answers.
And you had no time for complaints. Work it out was your mantra. Own the problem. Your zero tolerance for moaning set the tone. I found it refreshing.
Last, but not least, you welcomed the whole me in the office, a woman ambitious for my work and also a woman with a life outside of work. It was the first time in my career that I worked in a team of ambitious women who were also mothers. There was no shame in leaving work on time to make it home for supper with the kids. You rather looked down at presenteeism. Being a present parent was met with respect.
And of course it makes perfect sense, when we are able to refuel, whether that is through time with the kids or friends, hobbies or rest, we bring that energy to our work. You knew that and lived that truth.