Perception can have a powerful impact on how we think and act.
Researchers from Columbia’s Business School asked students to appraise the resume of an entrepreneur called Howard Roizen. His resume showed that Mr Howard had worked at Apple, launched his own software company and been a partner at a venture capital firm. He was a proficient networker and had very powerful friends including Bill Gates. Colleagues described him as a “catalyst” and a “captain of industry”.
The students thought he’d be an excellent person to have within a company because he was someone who got things done and was likeable. Now the interesting part of this experiment was that Mr Howard doesn’t exist.
When students were asked to review the true owner of the resume Ms “Heidi” Roizen they judged her to be more selfish and less desirable than Mr Howard, even though she was viewed as being equally as effective.
Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says this “belief barrier” severely impacts on women and their ability to progress and is rife through all levels of society. According to Ms Broderick, “we believe that good mothers are always with their children”. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re there – if you’re with your children, that’s what a good mother looks like… and the same goes for workers. “To be in a senior position, it is expected that you be available more than five days a week… and available 24-7 with no visible caring responsibilities.”
NSW Rural Women’s Award 2012 winner Danica Leys and runner-up Corinne Annetts both juggle career and family. Being away from home for meetings and events – especially for rural people where travelling huge distances is common – can give rise to guilt about not doing enough with their families.
Corinne runs a boutique goat stud and says the business has to have balance and work around the family. “The key thing is to link into technology we have today by using smart phones, internet, skype, social media, webcams, video phones etc to conduct meetings over long distances or share the family news while away,” said Corinne.
Danica is leading the way for primary producers to use social media more effectively through AgChatOz, a social media platform connecting and facilitating the sharing of ideas. Bringing change to cultural archetypes will take time and women need the option to let go of some of their domestic responsibilities and ask or allow others to help. “I have two young daughters and we try to work towards sharing in our household, its difficult at times, but generally works pretty well and allows me to concentrate on the bigger picture when I need to,” says Danica.
Ms Broderick thinks women have to build confidence and learn to be greater risk takers – putting themselves forward rather than waiting to be asked or until they can tick all the boxes – research shows men seem so much more comfortable learning as they go.
Corinne doesn’t think women lack confidence: “I just think we find it difficult when attention is placed on us and we are not sure how to deal with it. “It is certainly a skill to take risks and put yourself out there but we need to remember that women do this every day, raising families and running businesses.
Danica believes what Elizabeth says is true, women need to be more confident and not be reticent to have a go. “By our very nature, we are collaborative workers and quite often when asked, attribute success to having a great team and the like,” says Danica. Danica agrees with Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook who says women need to take their seat at the table. “It’s no good having a whingeabout women’s equality and rights; we women shouldn’t wait for an invitation – just do it.”