Superpowers (cont’d)

In a previous blog (see “The Superpower I Didn’t Want”) I wrote about becoming invisible. That can happen in everyday life, but it can happen at work too.
I’m lucky enough to work for a company with “fairness” running through its centre like a stick of rock, and yet there still aren’t too many women at the top, and sometimes I wonder why. When there isn’t discrimination squashing women down, why aren’t they rising up the ranks? Is it something we do?
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to go to a fantastic 2-day conference with work. The subject of glass ceilings came up in the informal discussions of the first day, and I found myself in the privileged position of debating the topic with some of the smartest and most successful women I’ve ever met.
Unfortunately I had to leave that conference early due to an emergency at home, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was the right, and only thing to do. I’m lucky enough to have solid and real support at work in that kind of circumstance, but from a less supportive company it would have been a great excuse to treat those couple of days of invisibility to slide the glass ceiling into place, and leave me banging on it for ever more.
Of course, a problem at home isn’t exclusive to women, and it isn’t the only reason why a woman might choose to put her job aside for a while, but it serves as an example of how work can sometimes take second place to a life outside. In my opinion that’s just as it should be, but I can also kind of understand that, for those driven, passionate individuals who have succeeded in the workplace at the highest levels, to see a promising person (who might be a woman) pass up an opportunity must be incredibly frustrating. And that surely must lead to the temptation to give the next opportunity to the next promising person (who might not be a woman). See how that glass ceiling is closing in?
But it’s not all double glazing and toughened windscreens. What if we could metapohorically turn that glass ceiling into a mirror, to reflect ourselves back as others see us? What if we could use that vision to decide if we like what we see, where we want to go, and then work out how we can change things if we want to?

Ceilings and Mirrors

In my last blog (see “Superpowers cont’d”) I wrote about glass ceilings. What if you could turn them into a looking glass, to reflect yourself, your visions and your aims? That would help solve your invisibility problem! Just maybe, it would help us all work out how to break through that glass ceiling of a looking glass, and into a world of adventure beyond, just like Alice.
Here are my tips for how:

1. Use that mirror to reflect back and understand your priorities and what works for you. Grow to know the kinds of meetings you can’t ever miss, or the kinds of home commitments you won’t ever give up. Make sure the priority calls you make are right for you.

2. Decide, deal with it, and move on – if you’re worrying about the place you aren’t, then you might as well be there, because you’re no use where you are. Sitting at home worrying about how the client meeting went won’t help your colleagues impress, and you’ve taken time out to help your sick child, so help them. Harsh? Yes. Simple? Yes. Easy? Oh, no.

3. Plan in advance how you’ll deal with conflict situations. For example, if you have kids, the odds are you’ll need to look after a sick one every now and then. Find a neighbour who might help out once in a while; get the kit to work from home during the patient’s naps.

4. Negotiate around your situation. You can bet the crisis point will come at work and at home on the same day. If the report needs doing by 5 – see whether working in the evening and getting it done by 9am the following day will do just as well.

5. Realise that most of the time it’s a juggling act, and you won’t get it right every time. Learn from the bad days and use those lessons when you go back to step 3 (planning).

6. Be kind to yourself – although we may have some superhero attributes, we are really human beings underneath!

Jubilant Street Parties!

Isn’t the word “jubilant” a brilliant one? With a meaning all of its own, yet with overtones of others: like “triumphant” – yet somehow not so bossy; like “celebration” – yet with more gravitas; like “jewel” – yet with perhaps even more sparkle. A word not used very often except, perhaps, in the few weeks around Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Queen has always been a fixture in my life, and like when anything or anyone is always there for you, sometimes you take it, or them, for granted. While watching some Jubilee celebrations on TV, I was struck by one comment an artist made, whilst painting on the Millenium Bridge. He wanted to celebrate the Queen’s contribution to the role of women throughout the Commonwealth. I hadn’t really considered this before, but what a great role model for a woman in power – grace, constancy and determination.
To celebrate Her Majesty’s great achievements over many decades, my neighbours planned a street party, with lots of activities, which everyone nearby could get involved with – or not, as they choose. Only the weather could intervene!
During the planning of this event, what has amazed me is the “jubilant” spirit in my street. We’re the same people who don’t see much of each other usually; we all have the same personalities and skills as we did a few weeks ago when we were unconnected. But somehow this jubilant feeling has spun a thread of diamond-glinting magic between our homes and made us into a community. This same magic has been evident all around the country, in a tide of optimism.
In some ways, the street party itself became secondary to the “jubilant” spirit was created in the first place, and that somehow, we can maintain it.
How can we do that in our street? Well, perhaps in the same way as at home, in our daily lives, at work, or in the country as a whole. By remembering the good times, by remembering what we can and have achieved together, and that we are all amazing – individually, but together even more so.
We can’t have a street party every day, but we can celebrate our group successes and be jubilant a little more often.

Postscript: How it rained on the day of our street party! But we went ahead and held it anyway, just adding “Puddle Splashing” to the list of activities!