BY Suzana Morais, Principal Consultant, CAPCO Brazil
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an astronaut or a ballet dancer. My path turned out to be quite different, but I always felt like I had a voice - and a choice in my future. I think this is because in Brazil a woman with a career is viewed as a very positive thing and my family always encouraged me to pursue my own dreams.
But not all women in Brazil are encouraged by their loved ones to have a career. There is a lack of women in leadership positions in business and research institutions. Why is this the case in a pro-feminist society? In my experience, many women have two jobs: their career but also a home to run, which as we know, is a job in itself.
Every one of us should have an equilibrium. This is difficult for people in leadership positions as that bring many responsibilities you didn’t have before, and you’re accountable for a lot of tasks that should be delivered by today, and not tomorrow.
I know a lot of women that have chosen to “focus on their career” – myself included. These friends love what they do, and they are brilliant at their jobs. Unfortunately, they all have something in common: regardless of wanting it or not, they don’t feel encouraged in striving for an equilibrium, because it seems very challenging. However, there are women that achieve it and we admire these women the most.
It’s therefore up to individuals and the organizations they work for to foster an environment where people can be successful in both their job and their home life. This is not just about women but men too. If we as citizens pursue a society where people will share responsibilities at home such as cooking dinner, walking the dog, and bathing the children, then companies can give everyone the flexibilities needed to deliver these shared responsibilities. Until we get to this point, we are unlikely to see change for a long time yet.
I also think that women in the workplace need to have the confidence to push themselves forward in work situations – in feeling free to share their knowledge and opinions. I studied to become an engineer and have carved out a career in analytics, both very male-dominated environments. When you’re in the minority, you have to try to fit in - and join the conversation. Otherwise, work can become a lonely place to be.
Luckily for me, I have always been good at adapting to new situations and groups of people. As a result, I never felt excluded by the men in my teams or on my engineering degree, but I know that not all women felt this way. It’s up to all of us to listen to women in the workplace – you would be surprised with the stories they can tell.
In my first job, my interviewer said, “You really trust yourself, right?” To which, I replied, “If I don’t, then who else will?” Indeed, Press for Progress (this year’s International Women’s Day theme) won’t happen by itself. On an individual level, women need to drive their own destiny.