Today I was asked a very interesting question. “If I were still working in industry, in a corporate capacity, or even in my old job and if I had a blank sheet of paper, how would I rewrite the way I worked.”
At first, I felt myself limit myself to ‘more flexible working’. But that is just adapting the way we work now, still in the confines of traditional and current ways and hours of working. I recall one of the final interviews I had, after being asked to go and discuss returning to one of the big consulting firms so that they could increase and fulfil their quota and percentage of female leaders. A way to encourage and inspire other younger woman climbing their way up the corporate ladder to consider staying on after becoming a parent. In my interview (for my benefit as much as theirs) I asked about ‘flexible working’ to the interviewer / ex-colleague and how it could apply to me being the primary carer of two small pre-schoolers.
I remember his reply so clearly. I could work a normal day, starting early and then finish so I got home in time to bath and say goodnight to my children and then, do I what he did – get the laptop out again and carry on.
I knew in that moment, corporate life in that industry was no longer for me. Not until there were radical changes in the workforce to cater for the career girl in me, but also the 50’s housewife expected of me who not only bathes her children, but feeds them, keeps on top of all household chores and provides a home cooked, wholefood supper, passes the pipe and slippers to the man of the house. Trying to do and be both, almost killed me. Potentially my own fault, as I wouldn’t accept help or didn’t like spending money on help if I could do it myself. But getting my laptop out at 8 or 9pm after having done the dishes just didn’t appeal to me; it didn’t feel like living. It filled me with a dread that felt like dying slowly.
So I turned the question around. What on earth would make me reconsider re-entering the blue chip world?
And it was a simple answer. When it all slows the fuck down and when men and women are not only treated as equals in the boardroom but also in the bedroom, kitchen, nursery, laundry room and all the other rooms. Maybe more than that, so there is no distinction between male and female, pink and blue jobs, primary childcarer or primary earner. And that is the next huge culture change.
But it has to slow down first. Technology has sped everything up to a ridiculous pace. As a student I worked in a solicitors – I remember fax machines were the new revolution, but the majority would go in the snail mail or DX (directory exchange!). It took days or a week for communication and messages to happen, decisions made. There was no rush, no panic; and there was consideration and time to think, rather than react. People didn’t have to make ‘living in the moment’ a thing, because they had time to do that anyway without mindfully and consciously doing so. They connected with people, face to face rather than blanket, faceless communication. I took lunch, went for a walk in the fresh air.
If we continue to go at this pace and increase the pace at the same speed, I fear for a society burnt out. I fear for my boys and their future.
If it slowed down, perhaps I wouldn’t feel the guilt and fear that I did when I had my non-corporate working days but ‘worked’ at looking after my family. I wouldn’t feel the guilt and fear when I would return to work to find decisions I disagreed with had been made while I was out of the office.
If it slowed down, perhaps there would be more of a focus on flow of work, rather than hours of work and more consideration would be made for people and for decisions and both parents could be present in the lives of their offspring.
I don’t know. Who knows? It was an interesting question. I did love what I did for a long time, but then it stopped working for me. And I still feel shame that I didn’t carry on, a little guilty perhaps. But I am also glad I had the courage to leave and do something different, try new things, add flavour and diversity to the patchwork of my life.
I know my friend is embarking on a journey to help all the disenfranchised women still living and fighting in a corporate world, whether that be through choice, ego, financial requirement or other.
I strongly believe her work will change the shape of today, tomorrow and the future.