Pep Talk for Beth

Hello Autumn

 “One thing I’ve learned is that I’m not the owner of my talent; I’m the manager of it.” — Madonna

I was speaking to a young friend this week. She wanted to know what she had to do in order to structure her career like mine. Ah, well. I would say my career path is pretty much the least structured aspect of my life – and there’s way too much to tell for a blog. That being said, during the brief conversation we had, a few issues did seem to rise to the top as being eminently worthy of discussion. My experience is exclusively that of a lone woman in arboriculture – I’m aware I don’t speak for everyone. I’m also aware that the younger generation probably contains just as many men disillusioned with the world of work as it does women, and although I’m addressing the females of the population, if what I have to say includes anything of use to young people of any and all genders, I’m glad.

It’s my contention that we women really do have a bit of a problem when it comes to thinking about money. A good proportion of us would just rather not think about it at all, let alone have to negotiate about it, or attach a realistic worth to our services. There are complex reasons for this, but I can’t go into them here. When we find ourselves underpaid we might grumble but it has been rare for us to actually mobilize and act to change that and when we’ve made a difference, it’s had a tendency to be local and to lack breadth and depth or long-term influence.

Nothing changes the gender equation more significantly than women’s economic freedom,”  Gloria Steinem

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/ the gender pay gap widenend a bit across the globe in 2017. After more than a decade of solid progress this is startling news. Some highly educated commentators suggest that women just won’t ask for what they want, others point out that further studies show even when they do ask, women just don’t get as much as men do, and often, having asked at all turns out to land them with a reputation of being difficult to work with or too expensive.

When it comes to any kind of negotiation, anybody is at a distinct disadvantage if they have no idea what they’re ultimately aiming to achieve. And it’s my contention that, at work, in the sphere of their livelihoods and career ambitions, a lot of women just don’t know what they want. Have a go at it now. Go on. Picture your life when its running exactly as you want it to. What are you doing? How does it feel? What kind of person are you? How busy are you? Do you have a family? How does that work? Are you powerful, authoritative, in-charge? Or are you simply experiencing a high degree of creative freedom? Do you win awards? Are you spectacularly well paid? What are your working hours? How much stress is involved? Are you part of a team? Head of a team? A ‘Lone Ranger’? What exactly does success in your working life look like to you?

I don’t believe we should push these questions to one side. Without answers to them, none of us have any chance of becoming first class life-negotiators on our own behalf and, as a result, we may severely limit the collective rate of change. It’s one thing to say ‘No’ to a position in society we’ve had for millenia, to challenge the good and the bad of it. But we then have to go on to define what we’re saying ‘Yes’ to. 

I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” Emma Watson

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