With both International Women’s Day and UK Mother’s Day occurring this past week, it gives all we women the excuse to add to the on-line word power, pound out thoughts on what it’s like to be a woman in business, and generally reflect on our careers as women. In that spirit, and after a whirlwind week of meetings in New York including catching up with a soon to be next gen leader I’m very excited to have joining our team, presenting at McEwen Mining’s Innovation Lunch and Learn in Toronto with a few dynamo women in the audience, and ending my week in London working with a new team member in one of our investors whom is sure to be a dynamic addition to their team, here’s a few of my thoughts:
First. I look forward to when we don’t need women’s days. Not withstanding I think Mums Day is just that – a fabulous day to pay tribute to our mums rather than feel any other forced need to recognize them. As I write this over breakfast in my London hotel, and watch the many families arrive with flowers and gifts for their mums, it’s a genuine celebration. I think of my strong German mum still in Australia, a child in world war two Germany, married to a military officer, living in a country she was an immigrant to, and a woman whom worked from the moment I could remember, whose work ethic and sense of voice, spread to me. So, I vote yes for Mums Day.
Second. I wonder to what degree the next generation of women feel the need to spotlight diversity and inclusion, as I observe the new generation of kids coming into business whom don’t seem to see gender, race or culture through the same lens my generation did. They collaborate, contribute and communicate in a deeply different way, ways that lend themselves to open up whole new worlds. I’m jealous and excited all at once. They have such opportunity. I also look at the hotel I love to brag about , The Covent Garden Hotel which is part of the Firmdale group of hotels, whom from the time I started staying with them has been populated with strong, wonderful women at every level including their General Manager Helle Jenson. So, I live with hope the world is already undergoing a natural change.
Third. I thank the women whom took the time to offer guidance and support as I grew through my career. To a woman I met briefly many years ago (perhaps some 15 years), Sarah Burns, CEO of Central Maine Power, I especially thank. As she walked myself and my male colleague back to reception, Sarah took the time to share her thoughts with a young(ish) woman she had only just met, on the competitive spirit of women. She spoke of how it can occasionally manifest itself as rivalry rather than support and our need to ensure we are aware of that. This was my interpretation of a conversation but one that has remained with me since that day. It stuck with me. Sarah continued with an example of her experience on the difference between men and women in business – our need to think through interactions versus that great trait of men to move on quickly. Her message was one of supporting your fellow women. As a result, I’ve consciously tried to spotlight, highlight and connect women wherever, whenever I can. Keeping a watchful eye on our own Proudfoot women in between the chaos of day-to-day business. And a shout out to two of my management team, Cay Mims and Isabelle Le Bec whom focus on this relentlessly. I also try to share ideas, views and books I’ve thought worth spreading to those women I’ve met whom are powering up other firms as Sarah did. So, I believe senior women today are providing a multiplier effect and we are conscious of our obligation to support other women.
Fourth. To the men I’ve met and known whom have at no time seen a woman but rather a person whom could add great value to the conversation, business and community, I thank you. And there are many of you. I grew up with a father whom 45 years ago told me “you can be anything you want to be Pamela, you can be the next Ita Buttrose”. Ita was then Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly and a trailblazing woman in what was considered a macho Aussie world. To two brothers whom have been proud of my career albeit removed me from my family in Oz. To Jon Wylie who has never seen a difference between men and women at work; just great people doing great work regardless of gender. To McDonald’s – yes the restaurant chain, whom taught me as a 14 year old kid in the suburbs of Sydney that women could flip burgers with the best of them, but also go on to manage multimillion dollar businesses as store managers, achieving sales and profits on equal terms with the men. To Emilio Di Spiezio Sardo, a partner with Proudfoot shareholder firm BlueGem Capital partners whom brings the best brains to the table regardless of gender and as such naturally builds diversity and inclusion. And to Paul Atherley, MD Berkerley Energia, whom I met briefly last year at a mining event, but whom warmly recognized the role I had – CEO of a publicly traded company – as having broken a few ceilings. He also did what every Dad should do and what mine would have done. Paul asked if I would have time to meet his daughter, whom I was delighted to have breakfast with a few weeks later, a next gen leader in her own right. To John Murray of Swann Global whom surrounds himself with talented women (and men) to build a business and took a first time CEO client he had barely known, under his wing with words of encouragement, support and advice. And to my team of brilliant men (and women) whom for the most part have adapted well to that first time female CEO with her own strengths and weaknesses, and proclivities, I thank you. I say for the most part because we had a few casualties whom opted out in the early days, but we all moved on and are better for it, focused on reinventing a 72-year-old brand. So, I understand the absolute need to ensure we don’t paint the male dominated world with the one brushstroke of bias, but rather take each business, leadership team and person on their own merit and work with them to address bias and inclusion as we see it.
Finally. To all the next gen leaders (women and men) whom ask me for advice. I start by reminding myself and sharing with them that I’ve made so many mistakes I almost don’t feel I am the one to be offering advice, but I do believe in one very important thing – surrounding yourself with people whom you respect, from all walks of life, whom you can learn from, and do this with purpose. So, I believe in developing your own personal board. One thing you need in life is people whom believe in you and encourage you through thick and thin, but also those whom will keep you grounded and tell it to you straight when you need it, no matter how tough it is to hear.
And then comes a deeply personal thought that has become my own personal mantra: I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. It’s OK to not be everyone’s favourite person but you sure as hell need to be focused on what counts and be brilliant at it; whether that’s what you stand for, your business stands for or what you want to achieve, you need to know what makes the difference. You need to know what your shot of whiskey is.
Here’s to brilliant women; may you surround yourself with them, may you help them be ever more brilliant, and may you learn from them. And here’s to the men whom partner with them.
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