THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
“As women in today’s society we are very highly educated and brought up being told that we can do absolutely anything and be anything.
Then some of us are slapped in the face with reality when it comes time to have children.
All of these logistics come in to play and other things that need to be considered, and society at this stage still doesn’t always quite allow for that balance.”
I had the pleasure of catching up for coffee with Channel Nine Adelaide’s leading lady Kate Collins and took the opportunity to pick her brains on what it takes to stay at the top after adding motherhood in to the mix.
With a clear dream in mind but things not quite going to plan early, Kate took an alternate but seemingly fast track to the top to become the glamorous face smiling back at us from Channel Nine’s news desk as we battle witching hour in our kitchens.
After missing out on getting in to Uni to study journalism, Kate spent a few years studying media, working for free, learning the ropes and eventually scoring post grad entry – a longer than planned process but an early demonstration of the strength and determination that would eventually land Kate her dream role.
After completing this degree Kate scored a role as Journo for a country TV station. Her talent was recognized immediately and her boss at the time sent a video of her to Channel 9 boss Tony Agars and within her first year of graduating she was sitting front and center as news anchor for the first time. Something Kate had always dreamed of but never really thought would happen, and certainly not so quickly!
Kate admits that she didn’t think a whole lot about what would happen when she had a family at that point. She was so focused on her ambition and reaching her full potential at work that having children was something down the track that she’d think about when it came to it.
And then it did.
Kate fell pregnant with beautiful little Harvey and felt uneasy early on.
Journalism typically isn’t an easy career for the working mum, Kate says that many women chose to leave the profession once they has children as the long hours and being constantly on call don’t tend to fit in easily with children to consider.
“You’re no longer just a free agent ready to go anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat. There’s a child to consider.”
“If you are limited by the time that you can spend at work or the duties you can carry out, of course you’re not going to be the first person that they’ll put in line for a promotion because you’re not the one there putting in all the time and all the hours, doing all of the work. It seems really unfair, because you can’t have it all…. You can not have it all, it’s a myth. Because if you do try to do that then you’re going to suck at a lot of those areas in your life.”
“I’ve been reading heaps since having Harvey about balancing these roles and how men can be supported and step up a bit more in a child care role and I think there is still a really long way to go before women can really step up equally in their careers post children.”
“Even if they are supported and they still can progress in their careers post children, you’ll always have that pause put in there. It’s like putting the brakes on as soon as you have another child or announce you’re pregnant.”
“I think a lot of women think more about ‘am I actually going to be able to keep my job, rather than how far can I progress in my career.”
“In our society the men and women of course fall pregnant together, but then it’s the women who immediately starts considering her career and how that’s going to be impacted whereas it won’t even cross the guy’s mind.”
Kate said ‘initially when I found out I was pregnant, I felt terrified because I didn’t know what was going to happen and how work would embrace that. But we managed to work really cohesively, they were wonderful and very supportive. I realize that I’ve been very lucky, although I did need to go back to work on limited hours earlier than I would have liked.’
A strong desire to make it work, self belief, the support of her husband and importantly the confidence to speak to her employer to come up with a game plan that would work for all involved all came together to bring Kate back to our TV screens after five months at home getting to know Harvey.
Here’s what goes on before the cameras start rolling in a day in the life of Kate Collins.
Precious morning Mum and Harvey time
I don’t get to see Harvey at night so my only time with him is in the mornings. We have our time before work to play and do the things we need to do before he goes to child-care or mums and then my husband does the pick up in the evenings. When he was really little and I was still breastfeeding I’d still have the opportunity to do the night feed and see him when I got home but it’s hard now. I get home from work after a hard day and I don’t see him. There’s a huge chunk of the day that he’s spending with other people and not me, and that can still be hard.
I do realize that I’m really fortunate that I’m still really fortunate to have that quality time in the morning with him.
Starting a workday with hair and makeup? Yes please!
Kate’s working day starts at 1130am -12 where it’s straight off to hair and makeup for an hour (oh if only I could have this included in my working day!)
Next it’s catching up on news, recording updates for TV and radio, doing voice recordings and promotions.
At 4pm Kate starts checking the bulletin, stories, updates and what the reporters have been working on during the days ready to head in to the studio to greet us on air at 6pm.
A day is done
After the bulletin, evening updates are recorded which sometimes can mean you are required to stay back late, sometimes up to 1030pm if there’s a significant event happening. You need to be available for these things, you can’t just decide to knock off and go home if there’s breaking news to be reported.
After I get home from work it’s time for me to spend time with my husband at the end of the day… until we’re both exhausted and fall asleep on the couch!
It was such a pleasure to chat to Kate and hear her experiences of life after becoming a mum. Wishing her all the best with the arrival of number two!
The further I travel in to this journey of uncovering what enables a person to live life to it’s full potential with passion and purpose, the more I can see a pattern emerging. It’s all about perspective - the way people choose to look at their world.
Therefore it was of no surprise to me when Sam described how she sees life.
“’Magic is only real if you believe in it ’. I am a firm believer that you can only see magic, the beauty and wonder in the world, if you are looking for it. As my children grow I want them to understand that childhood magic doesn't have to disappear, there is still so much to marvel at once we've learnt the truth to the fairytales.”
Radiographer/ Marathon runner/ Interior Designer/ Photography lover and mum of two gorgeous girls, Sam Verri is a colleague of mine who has been an inspiration to me for a few years now as I've watched her beautiful life outside of work flourish through the lens of her beloved camera on her Instagram account (you must check her out for some massive #instaenvy @sam_verricharmed and @theeverydayportrait_).
Given her impressive list of pursuits and passions it won’t surprise you that I decided to find out how she manages to keep a life full of so many loves.
The lesson’s I’ve learnt from Sam have been some of the very best so far in my How She Does It journey and I’m going to share her full story with you next week – you don’t want to miss it!
For now though, here is an introduction to an amazing woman on a path to living her best life.
Something you love about yourself
This is the kind of question that I always find so difficult to answer. I do like my determination.
What is your Guilty Pleasure?
I take great pleasure in many things and I try not to feel guilty about them, I guess perhaps dark chocolate is something I tend to over induldge in though.
How did you feel while you were pregnant about the change that was about to happen in your life?
To be honest I never considered the change that was about to happen. I only felt excitement about the future. No one can ever prepare you for how different life will be once you have your child in your arms. Not only is the world turned upside-down but you discover this new capacity for love that you hadn't realised was possible.
That new little person holds such a large part of your heart inside them. Then as they grow you have to send them off to kindy, school and beyond, taking that piece of your heart off with them, so when they're not around you don't feel whole anymore. It's crazy really.
How did you feel in the early months after having your first child?
I was mostly very very tired in those first few months (years!) - my first born never slept. I also often felt overwhelmed by the constantly shifting routine and unrelenting change that comes with a growing baby. Honestly, I still feel like this sometimes even at 9 and 7 years of age, just when you think you have them figured out, they grow a bit more and change all over again.
I do remember that despite the sleep deprivation and confusion I felt quite content, like I have a purpose.
How did you decide what your return to work plan was going to look like?
I am a planner so I basically knew from conception what my return to work plan would be like. I had saved enough money to have exactly 8 months off after Miss D's birth and then finances dictated that I worked 2.5 days a week on my return with casual weekend work also thrown into the mix. It was always planned that Miss D would be at daycare when I was at work. It all came down to necessity.
I was back at work for about 11 months before Miss M was born. I went back to work when she was 6 months old for two days a week, but this time I was put on the rotation for the night shift roster. In the 6.5 years I have been back at work I have increased the amount of night shift that I do from two sets in six months to eight to ten sets as this is what works best for my family.
What does a typical day look like for you?
These days my days really vary from week to week. On paper I work fifteen hours per week but in reality I work closer to four days per week, though much of that is over night as I continue to regularly work night shift so that I can be home as much as possible for my family.
On the days that I am not at work my day consists of getting the girls ready and walking them up to school. I often incorporate walking our two dogs on the school run to save time, though some days I will come home and collect them immediately for a longer walk or beach play. School hours are spent with either a run, swim or yoga, then shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing, all of those boring mundane things.
If I'm on night shift I try and get a few hours of sleep in and everything falls down a bit. After school I'm ferrying the girls to one of their many extra curricular activities (seriously, I always said no more than two each yet one has five different activities, the other has four!!), helping with home work and cooking dinner.
Currently we have a bedtime routine with the girls where I read for half an hour (we are making our way through the Harry Potter series together) then my husband puts the girls to bed. He works very long hours so it is important to him to have a little one on one time with them in the evening. After this my husband and I catch up on the day together. So really all in all, it's general suburban life.
Do you have any tips for other working mums/mums about to return to work?
The return to work can be really daunting, but once you are back to work it can actually be a bit of a haven. I found that it was really nice to be reminded of my old self and get back to something that was familiar and predictable, very much the opposite of parenting! It created a lovely balance for me.
I think the biggest thing to realise is that you don't have to do it all. Some days the house won't be as tidy as you like, or the washing won't be done, or you have made sandwiches for dinner (or all of those things plus more will happen all at the same time!!) but your mental and physical health are vital for your family, so sometimes you just have to be kind on yourself and let life slow down a bit. Really truly, the most important thing is that everyone is happy and healthy.
What is your biggest struggle as a working mum?
Like many mothers I often feel guilty on my work days that I'm not immediately accessible for my children and they have to go to before and after school care. It creates a very long, tiring day for them. But then, when I am not at work I feel like I 100% have to justify my day, even though no one is asking me to. I am getting better at both of these things though.
What do you love about your new life as a mum?
I feel like becoming a mum opened my eyes. I see the world differently now. not just through my own eyes but through theirs as well. That is a very precious thing.
How have you changed for the better?
I feel that many parts of me have changed for the better. I am much more organised now than I was before children. Both my husband and I are much healthier. We wanted our children to have a healthy lifestyle, so we needed to become good role models. I am also far more calm than I ever was, the unpredictability of kids will do that to you I guess!!
Who is your support network?
After the birth of my first daughter I was directed to a mother's group. That group of women became a lifeline for the next five years. We shared so much together, including the births of our second (and third for some) children. After the eldest children went to school the time we spent together decreased severely as we could no longer get our schedules to match. However, we do get together sans children occasionally and when we do that over a glass of wine, you can not stop us talking for hours! I will hold those women in my heart forever.
In recent years I have become friends with a few other school mums and we help each other when needed. My husband and I have also become heavily involved in our local Surf Life Saving Club and I feel we are building a bit of a family there.
Do you have any time management/ organization tips you’d like to share with us?
I have learned recently that no matter how many important things you "think" you have to do, it is more important to take time out for yourself. I now make sure on the days that I'm not at work, I take an hour "lunch break" just to sit and be. I often read a book in this time, just to shut my mind off to realities for a bit. Doing this has actually made me much more productive because by taking a little bit of time out in the middle of the day, I am able to focus much better in the afternoon.
What do you do to stay healthy? How do you fit it in?
Being fit and healthy is a priorty for me. When the girls were small I always managed to fit exercise in around them. In the early days I walked alot with them in the stroller and as they became a little bigger I would run before they woke in the morning or do group fitness or Bikram yoga after they had gone to bed at night.
Now-days I am lucky to be able to fit it in during school hours so it doesn't encroach on my time with them. During school holidays I will often wake at 5 am so I can fit either a run or swim in before they are awake for the day. We also incorporate exercise into family time, as we only live about 800m from school I insist that we walk to and from school rain, hail or shine.
On Monday evenings my husband and I make use of the swimming pool while the girls are having their lessons. We are all involved in surf life saving, and we do this together as a family, with my husband and I taking on age group manager roles for our girls Nipper age groups. I also coach the girls basketball team.
Healthy living really is a huge priorty for us.
Do you have a go to meal/ recipe?
I like to cook with fresh ingredients and we frequently shop at the Adelaide Central Market because I find it easier to mean plan when all the seasonal produce is right in front of me. I like to change things up as much as possible, but you just can't go past a hearty soup in winter, especially if you can stretch it out for a couple of nights. Any kind of meal that can be stretched to two nights is a good thing in my opinion.
Zucchini slice is firm favourite with our kids, as are homemade baked beans.
What do you do for ‘me’ time?
Exercise takes up alot of my "me" time. In the past few years I have taken up long distance running and during the cooler months I like to take part in the many running events to be found around Adelaide. Running and having a goal associated with it has been the best possible thing for my mental health.
I have also recently completed a dipolma in interior design and I'm continuing to study in this area mostly for my own interest, but I love to help friends with advice in their own homes.
I'm very interested in photography and I like to make time to take photographs as often as possible. Photography is an area that I would love to study further. I really enjoy posting on Instagram, and developed the tag #theeverydayportrait which became quite popular. I was consequently urged to develop @theeverydayportrait_ as a hub. We (my American friend, Luci, and I) feature candid photos of " the everyday mundane, shown for the wonderful it is". The hub has only been open for a short time, but I really love sharing photos from all the amazing artists out there. I find the community on Instagram to be very positive and inspiring.
I am also an avid reader of all books and an enthusiastic baker of cakes.
The Sam we are lucky enough to hear from today with her balanced, blissed out mumma vibe has arrived to this place, like many of us, by learning the hard way - through the consequences of pushing herself too hard and too far. Sam has been kind enough to share this story with me which is an absolute must read! There were tears... Make sure you are following How She Does It on Facebook, Instagram or subscribed to our mailing list so that you don't miss out! Some serious lessons to be learnt from this amazing woman.
Thanks for sharing Sam!
Lucy Dickens and I first crossed paths when our babies were both nine months old. I was still figuring out how to take Flynn to the supermarket. Lucy? She had strapped Lilly to her chest in a baby carrier and jumped right back in to the workplace as a lawyer!
I just had to hear all about her and how on earth she manages to complete her very important work with a baby in tow.
Lucy resides in Perth with her husband Jack, her little girl Lilly and their rescue dog, Dom. She works in property and commercial law and estate planning and was pretty quick to squash my mental picture of her pleading a client's case in a courtroom with Lilly strapped to her chest in a sling.
She said, “…unlike the lawyers you see on TV, I don’t like going to court and do my very best to avoid it!” Lucy’s role involves giving legal advice, preparing legal agreements, practice management, training and mentoring, product and software development and recruitment.
Still pretty mind boggling to achieve all this with a baby in tow isn’t it??
Of course I want to know how she does it, but I’m thinking you might also be wondering WHY?!
Lucy described feeling uneasy when she was pregnant about the change of life that was to come. She said “I wasn’t nervous about the being responsible for another human part, but the change-of-life thing was hard for me. I really couldn’t picture what life would be like. I had studied for six years and worked hard to get to where I was and I didn’t want to give that up. Deep down, I knew I didn’t have to give it up if I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know any other working mothers so I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I know I would have felt much better if I could see other women making it work. If they could do it, so could I!”
“I wish I’d known how amazing motherhood would be and that I was more than capable of doing my own thing without needing to follow in someone else’s footsteps. I could have saved myself a lot of tears! Or maybe not - those pregnancy hormones are crazy!”
After a tough first week of establishing breastfeeding Lucy quickly settled in to motherhood but found herself getting bored very quickly. She said “newborns sleep more than they are awake and I didn’t have much to occupy my time while Lilly slept, so I ended up returning to work (from home, initially) when Lilly was about 10 days old.”
Lucy didn’t really have a return to work plan. She had no idea how she would feel about working after having Lilly so she was just going to wait and see.
“When I did start working I just went with the flow. My work plan has changed many times in the last ten months – from working from home, taking Lilly to the office with me, working full time, back down to part time, and now a mix of working from home and at the office. I take Lilly to work with me, so it’s tricky to plan too far ahead while she is growing and developing so rapidly.”
“My workplace has been absolutely fantastic in many ways. The most obvious is that they allow me to take Lilly to work with me. Not only that, my boss is happy to organise his day around Lilly’s naps so that we have our meetings while she is awake and therefore don’t wake her!” Wow...
“Making sure I meet my goals is much more important than making sure I go to the office a certain number of days a week or work a certain number of hours a day. My boss and I regularly check-in and ask ourselves whether we should make any changes to my working arrangements.”
When asked what a typical day was like Lucy said “I’m sure many people who work flexibly will say there is no such thing as a typical day!”
“I first went back to the office when Lilly was still a newborn, so she slept pretty much all day. At that point, my job looked exactly like it had done the day before I gave birth! I had meetings with clients while Lilly slept in the sling!”
This is Lucy's version of a 'typical' day.
"Lilly is an early bird, so we’re up and about by 5:30-6AM. We usually play in bed for half an hour or so before having breakfast and a little dance party to start the morning. I love listening to music in the morning, so we blast it and we (well…I), prance about the house!"
"We don’t have a set time to leave for work, but I try to make sure we are in the office in time for Lilly’s first nap. So if we’ve had an early start, we’ll go to work early too. Lilly isn’t a big fan of the car, so we get the train to the city which takes about 25mins. Lilly LOVES the train and is always looking for someone new to give her attention. The journey to and from work has become one of my favorite parts of the day!"
"Lilly usually naps for about an hour in the mornings and I use this time to do work on the computer or on work that needs a high level of concentration. When she wakes up we move to the open-plan office where she plays in the middle of the room with her toys. I move between my desk and the floor and my colleagues also stop by for a little play whenever they come past."
"Lilly has a high chair in the office and we always stop for lunch. Sometimes we have a picnic at the local park or just get outside and go for a walk."
"After lunch I take Lilly in the sling and go for a walk around the block to get her to sleep. Again, I spend her nap-time in my office on the computer, and back to the open plan when she wakes."
"We leave work anywhere between 3-5PM, depending on Lilly’s mood."
"My husband does all the cooking these days, so he usually has dinner ready for us when we get home and he also does bath time. Then it is Lilly’s bed time. She nurses to sleep which usually takes an hour or so. Once Lilly is asleep I often carry on working."
"On our days off we go swimming, to the library Rhyme time, mother’s group, have picnics and we are about to start nursery. Given that I spend so much time multi-tasking during work, I make sure that I focus on Lilly on our days off.”
Lucy’s tips for other mums navigating the return to work? “Consider taking your baby to work with you! Of course it’s not suitable for all jobs, but it really can work if you want it to. Otherwise, I’d say be upfront with your boss about your priorities. Work out your work goals and understand what is expected of you. Then show your employer that you can meet their expectations by taking control of your time and working at the times and in the places that suit you.”
Lucy attributes returning to work as the key to helping her settle in to motherhood quickly.” Although life is totally different these days, I am still able to work doing the job I love. I see work as my ‘me’ time.”
After finding it difficult to connect with other working mums Lucy has added running a blog to her already very full schedule! Head over to Leaning In for more from Lucy on life as a working mum and how it is still possible to lean in to your career after having a baby.
Something you may not know about me is that I grew up in rural South Australia. I am a very proud Loxton girl and I am so thankful to have been raised a child of the river. I always felt blessed and not at all disadvantaged for being over 250km away from the nearest city. In fact, we were brought up by our parents and by our brilliant public high school to truly believe that anything was possible.
Considering this you could imagine how much my heart was bursting with pride when I came across this article by Pamela Perre, Riverland Local and award winning editor of the Loxton News. It was originally published by Country to Canberra, a not for Profit organisation empowering young rural women to reach their leadership potential. Pamela writes about embracing all of the different parts that make us women in today's world, an excellent read.
'What it means to be yourself'
My favourite writer, Joss Whedon, once said:
“Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.”
In one of his most inspirational speeches to date, he is also quoted as saying
“… you are all going to die.”
Mr Whedon, ever the optimist.
I grew up loving the television show he created, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It was the first thing I can remember watching where a lady kicked butt, but also cared if she broke a nail.
One of the many things from that show, which stuck with me as I reached my adult years, is that it was okay to be a strong woman, with hard morals, and a boss fly kick – it was okay to be all of that with glitter in your hair.
That it was okay to want to be a princess, with the big, butterfly-embroidered dress – it was okay to want that while pursuing a long, and fulfilling career in journalism.
Which is what I ended up doing, by the way.
My passion for storytelling, in any of its forms, led me to become a newspaper journalist (with secret ambitions to wear a big, chiffon dress, decorated with lace butterflies while I marry a prince – Harry I’m looking at you).
Over my seven-year career, I have won a few awards, helped launch a news website, and was promoted to editor of my newspaper.
To an outsider, reading through my list of achievements, I’ll appear to be a career-driven woman.
Yep, ‘career-driven woman’ – that’s probably the category some people might put me in.
Which isn’t a bad category, but it’s also not the whole truth.
We see thousands of people in passing all the time and, quite regularly (without even thinking about it), place each and every one of them in a category.
Hipster, goth, popular kid, gay girl, lawyer, nervous-wreck, model, straight, smart girl, hot guy, prince.
Why is it that we place everyone else into these little boxes?
I mean, you know that you don’t fit into only one category.
Humans are so much more interesting and have way more shades of grey than that.
Recognising who you are, all of who you are, is the first step to truly ‘being yourself’. Recognising a power and success in others, is another step towards truly being comfortable with yourself.
Being true to yourself isn’t about being the best journalist in the world.
It’s about being the best journalist, and sister, and mother, and wood worker, and pilot, and princess you can be.
Being the best version of yourself means being best versions of all of yourselves.
The career and the opportunities and the achievements – that all comes after, because people recognise and reward sincerity.
Which brings me back to that second Joss Whedon quote, which is essentially a more grim version of ‘YOLO’.
Its message is not one of reckless abandon, but one of passion and drive.
A message to use your mortality to drive you, and inspire you, and surprise you at every step towards achieving your dreams.
Written by Pamela Perre, originally published by Country to Canberra
It was getting to the end of what felt like a ‘Women in Leadership Luncheon’ circa 1980.
I stared into my glass of red wine as a group of executives spoke about gender inequality and the pay discrepancy between women and men.
Don’t get me wrong, these are important topics, but we’ve been reversing over them for years. It clearly isn’t working. I was underwhelmed and disappointed. The most exciting part of my day so far was the delightful chocolate mousse concoction that had just been dropped in front of me.
But then Clare Harris stepped up to the microphone. “Today’s discussion has been focused a great deal on men versus women,” she said.
“To be honest in my career this hasn’t been my issue. My issue has been with other women. If we want to see more women in leadership roles and more gender equality we first need to support each other!”
I almost choked on my chocolate tuile! I needed to meet this woman!
So I did.
Clare Harris is the CEO of Surf Life Saving SA. She is also a member of SA’s Chief’s of Gender Equality and a member of the SA Premiers Women in Sport Taskforce. She cares about women in leadership and she takes no shit.
I met her at the organization’s headquarters in West Beach. She greeted me with a genuine smile and a strong handshake making me feel like an old friend. We had a quick chat about the joy of the end of school holidays and I quickly realized something. This CEO is a real life human being. Smashing it in her career, but a mum who like everyone else on January 30 is pretty damn happy to drop the kids off at school and regain some sanity.
A CEO with no University degree, Clare is proof that hard work, determination, resilience, self belief and of course talent can certainly take you further than any piece of paper could. Living in Sydney, Clare studied to become a travel agent, then tried her hand at accounting – she hates maths. She studied Marketing and Public Relations and then scored a job in marketing and accounts for David Jones and her potential was clearly recognized – she was promoted four times in three years to ultimately become National Corporate Services Manager.
During this time she also fit in having her two children, returning to full time work just six months after having her first child. A much needed management restructure meant that Clare took a redundancy after ten years with David Jones. Like a true leader Clare turned this in to an opportunity rather than a crisis and moved with her husband back to his hometown of Adelaide to try her luck in her own business.
Clare bought Coastal Kids Childrenswear on Jetty Road thinking that owning her own business would buy her more time with her family and more financial freedom. The opposite was true. She found herself working seven days a week, going backwards financially, at risk of losing her home and putting a massive strain on herself and her family. Clare says that this period ultimately led to the demise of her marriage. She closed this business down after two years. I could hear the disappointment in her voice, she is a driven woman wanting to pave her own way but her place was in the corporate world, so that’s where she returned.
After going through some interesting interviews, Clare finally scored a role as Business Development Manager for Certegy Ezi-pay and then moved on to Business Development and Membership Manager for SA Great (now Brand SA). Here she expanded her network in an environment in South Australia that Clare believes is a lot about ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’. Through these contacts she scored her next role as General Manager, Commercial Operations at Netball SA.
Clare spoke with passion about her time at Netball SA where she and her team turned the club around and were responsible for the re-branding of the Adelaide Thunderbirds. After a stint as acting CEO Clare wasn’t kept on in this role and eventually left to take on her current role as CEO at Surf Life Saving SA. Clare is passionate about getting more women in to positions of leadership and is running a program called ‘Surf sisters’ to encourage young women to develop the skills and confidence to take on these roles.
You can see that Clare has had quite the career and I haven’t even touched on what she went through to stay at the top in the corporate world. What Clare refers to as ‘white-anting’, undermining, gossip and unproductive talk behind her back mostly by women has plagued her career. She’s had women at the top pushing her down, and women underneath pulling her back. Her 'take no shit' attitude and extreme level of resilience has served her well and she’s always managed to come out the other side.
Resilience is a key asset for any leader. But should Clare really need this next level resilience just to survive? And what is that saying to an up and coming female leader who wants so much more than just survival? Do they give up? Or not even bother trying?
Clare’s family is also involved in Surf Life Saving and during her time as CEO she has experienced a marriage break down, entered in to a new relationship and watched her children experience bullying because of the position she held – all in the eye of the people she was working with. After all, as well as being the CEO she was just a ‘Nipper mum’.
I asked Clare if she felt that being a woman in a leadership position people took more interest in her personal life than they otherwise would. Without hesitation she said ‘Absolutely.’ If there’s a male CEO it seems people barely even think about the fact that he might have a family. For a female CEO people are looking for the story. They’re looking for the gory details, they’re looking for the weakness.
I asked Clare how she managed to stay strong and remain resilient through all of the trials she’s experienced and I absolutely loved the answer she gave.
‘When all else fails you need to stick to your values and your
ethics. No matter what happens don’t lose sight of them and
you can go home feeling good about yourself.’
So, back to this issue of men vs. women and gender inequality? We can’t keep letting women off the hook. We need to look at what women have to do with the slow progress of women. Let’s talk about how we treat and support each other. We all absorb the same subconscious biases and beliefs, subjected to stereotyping from an early age. A young boy likes to take charge? A born leader. A little girl likes to take charge? Bossy. Conscious of it or not, we all carry this with us.
As women, we all want equality, we all want to see women in leadership roles so that we have an equal voice. It simply makes sense for businesses to have a broader perspective for innovation, sustainability and new ideas.
Do women support women at work? Absolutely. Do they sometimes sabotage and undermine each other? Absolutely.
Many women are very supportive of other women, I’m thankful that I’ve witnessed this many times. But I’ve certainly witnessed it the other way around as well. I don’t believe we do this consciously, which is why I’m addressing it. Awareness of these behaviors enables us to catch ourselves and make a choice to lose the biases, to communicate openly and respectfully, to be more supportive and more understanding.
Women can contribute to having more women at the top. Let’s create an environment where we can all thrive. It starts with you.
Simonne Joyce is a paramedic, nurse, university tutor, artist and mum to four boys who finds time to exercise every day. I called her amazing, I’m sure you would too! Simonne says, “I’m not amazing, just organized!” I think I’ll call her both.
I met Simonne at a Glenelg coffee shop after school drop off. She greeted me with a beautiful big smile and a just right wavy bob that I can never seem to master myself. Straight away she said “Oh my goodness, don’t look at my face!” It was then that she moved her hair to the side to show me a huge gash above her eye. Ouch!! How’d she do it? Simonne had unsuccessfully tried to land a jump on a scooter and found the corner of the house with her forehead. How cool is she?!
Preparation is key in the Joyce household. With a combined family of four boys - Hamish 11, Lachy 10, Ollie 9 (almost) and Henry 2, there are always kids ‘coming and going’ with the eldest three split 50-50 between families. On top of this she works full time hours. On an average day Simonne will get up at 630am to take a precious half an hour for herself, usually doing some form of exercise before getting the boys up and ready. Then comes the drop off, currently two stops – childcare and then OSHC and next year a third will be added as the eldest attends high school. All of this before even starting her working day.
Simonne very rarely cooks dinner on the night that they’re having it. She will either put on a slow cooker, cook during the day if she’s not at work, or prepare the next days meal the night before. This allows for the boys to attend their after school activities as well as precious scooter riding time in the evenings… plus or minus a trip to the emergency room. Simonne makes a cut off of 830pm for all of the busyness to be over and done with, making sure lunches are packed and ready to go for the next day. Mornings are much easier without the added stress of preparation for the day ahead, with ‘Hurricane Henry’ instantly wanting to play after he wakes up. Keeping the house tidy is a challenge, with cleaning fit in amongst other activities and broken in to bits and pieces rather than having time to do it in one big lot.
Simonne recognizes the struggle between maintaining a career(s) and bringing up children, particularly with the costs of childcare. She feels that the early years of a child’s life are important to spend with them and reflects on the fact that when her first baby was born she was forced back to work after only four weeks with no paid parental leave on offer! She remembers expressing in the toilets and feeling awful about having to leave such a small baby - a tough choice to make as a young first time mum but often one that we are unfortunately forced to make. Simonne does love her work though and feels that the ability to break up her week with adult conversation keeps her on track.
Simonne paints on the nights that her husband is out working as a fireman. With her very impressive Resin style (which happened to be on display in the coffee shop we were sitting in), once Simonne gets started with her first layer she needs to commit to doing it before it dries, taking up to five hours! She assures me that she does find time to sleep. Don’t worry, I wondered that too! After her husband expressed concern with the growing pile of twenty plus works of art taking up space in their spare room, Simonne got brave and took her work out to café’s to display for sale. She also attends markets, currently preparing for ‘A boutique life – Christmas design market’ in Belair this weekend if you’d like to go and meet this impressive human for yourself!
Exercise is a high priority for Simonne and she would like to be able to fit more in to her day than the half an hour that she currently manages. In the past Simonne has dropped her youngest child off a little early to childcare so that she could fit in a swim before work, something that she loved to do before having children. Guilt about doing this got the better of her but she recognizes the huge benefits that she gained from adding this time for herself during the day. She says that her son really loves the family day care that he attends and that it is important to try and not feel guilty. Not only does she benefit from it herself both physically and mentally, but also the example set for her sons that she is willing to make her own wellbeing a priority I’m sure will be carried with them throughout life.
Another high priority for Simonne is time with her husband spent nurturing their relationship rather than focused on the children. She sites her husband’s support as crucial for her success, always backing her and often helping with drop off and pick-ups. She says, “you need to remember that eventually the kids are going to grow up, so you need to make time for yourself and your partner. If you don’t do that things are going to crumble. If you put everything in to the children, when they leave you have nothing. If you work on yourself and your relationship then that positive vibe goes out to the kids.”
I had to ask. ‘Do people think you’re nuts??’ Simonne has had people tell her that she’s taking on too much, but she knows that it is just her personality to have goals and a lot going on in her life. She’d love to be able to work a little less, but for her this is what is needed for now. Giving up on her other goals and passions isn’t an option so she has committed to make it work. Simonne thinks that people should be able to choose what they do and doesn’t think it’s helpful for people to place judgment on each other for how much we are or aren’t doing because we’re all different people in different situations. Here here.
One key piece of advice? “Get up at the same time every morning, thirty minutes earlier than you usually would. Take that thirty minutes just for you. Use it to exercise, stretch or do something that you enjoy. This is the perfect way to start a day.”
ONE OF A KIND DESIGN
BUSINESS OWNER, ENTREPRENEUR, ARTIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER, MUM TO BE
Alysha Sparks once told people she "takes photos and paints" for a living. Now she tells them she's "an artist and photographer". It may sound like a subtle difference, but it reflects a distinct change in Alysha's confidence and self-belief.
So what sparked that change?
Arriving in a light, flowing leopard print skirt looking stylish, oozing a contagious energy and spirit as always, Alysha sits down and immediately offers up inspiration without even trying. "If you are doing what you're passionate about, you will succeed. You'll have that natural drive and passion that will get you to where you want to be." Hang on Sparks - let me hit record!
Alysha left school with little direction. She always loved art at school and in her career counselling sessions she was always directed to becoming an artist, but brushed it off because "you can never make money being an artist." Her dad told her she was creative so she could go and study graphic design, so that's just what she did. She landed her first job with the Adelaide Crows while still studying in her final year, and after finishing there she entered a full time position with the Hurley Hotel Group. Frustrated with working for someone else, "making rich people richer" and having minimal creative freedom but still not having a clear idea of what she really wanted to do, Alysha left to travel over seas for six months. After this amazing adventure and journey of self discovery, Alysha returned back to her former role, doubting her ability to self motivate and keep on top of things in order to run her own business.
Eight months later Alysha finally began to follow her passion and paint, trying her luck and putting her first one up for sale on Facebook - it sold within the hour. She knew she was on to something and kept this up and soon after a friend asked her to photograph their wedding. Alysha didn't feel prepared, but she wasn't going to let this opportunity pass her by so she did courses, she asked the right people the right questions, learnt her camera inside and out and nailed it. Word of mouth quickly spread and she booked another wedding, and then another. Things were falling in to place.
Alysha attributes finding a good mentor as one of the key components of building a successful business. "A mentor can give you all of their answers and you can learn from their mistakes rather than repeating history." She could see that this could really become something but she was juggling a lot - doing graphic design, refurbishing vintage furniture to sell, painting, doing photoshoots... Alysha could see that she needed to simplify things. It was time to sit down and pinpoint her passion. She needed to focus on what she loved and what she was best at, stopping distraction and providing her clients with the best possible result. She streamlined her business to Photography and Art, created a website and a logo and One Of A Kind was born.
It wasn't all easy. Alysha's journey was bumpy at first, self doubt creeping in causing her to question whether she could really pull this off and whether it was the right thing for her. She struggled initially knowing that she had to take full responsibility over how much money was or wasn't coming in and felt a huge amount of pressure. There were teary calls to her mum and dad, with her dad suggesting that there was always a spot for her on the family farm and she could be in charge of the sheep if things didn't work out. Alysha said she would have been happy to do that but she would have always had that creative passion that was left unfulfilled. Self-development became Alysha's antidote for these down moments and reinvesting in herself and her business is what eventually gave her the confidence that she needed to move forward. A proud purchase of a panel van for transporting her art, a studio space and a switch to beautiful, professional high quality framing of her work was a major turning point. She says "You need to spend time and money on your business for it to thrive" and that initially all of her income was being poured back in to the business. With this dedication and consistency Alysha in her mind was now legitimate. She was an Artist and Photographer, not just someone who paints and takes photos.
Alysha keeps on top of her schedule using her online calendar synced to her phone as her bible, ensuring that she sets reminders so that nothing slips past her. All deadlines and appointments go in here including when to send invoices and check in with clients. She likes to keep a flexible schedule so that she can be free to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. She says “each morning I write a list of priorities for the day and work through the most urgent first” leaving the afternoon free to head to the studio and paint or to book in photo-shoots. Every day in the life of Alysha Sparks is different and while she has been guilty procrastinating now and again she says “I love what what I do so I don’t feel the need (to procrastinate)”. Her approach to avoiding procrastination is to paint a canvas for ‘fun’ first allowing for complete creative freedom, getting her in the mood to create something commissioned with more constraints.
Walks with friends scheduled in to her week allow Alysha to fit in socializing with exercise throughout her working days. She feels that a balance between working and spending time with family is important for her wellbeing and finds that she becomes run down if this gets thrown out of whack. She says “balance is everything, but also harder when you work for yourself.”
Alysha lives and works in country South Australia and feels that this has been a major contributor for the success of her business. She says “…our community is very supportive, our town and surrounding towns are all made up of small businesses, we all help each other. What is that saying about ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’?” Humbly, Alysha states that she can’t believe how well business is going but recognises “you get out of it what you put in.”
When asked for one key piece of advice for anyone looking at starting their own business Alysha says without pause "Do it now - because there will always be some other excuse that comes along. Just do it."
Now Alysha begins her next journey, seventeen weeks pregnant with her first child. She smiles as she envisions painting with her little one in a baby carrier, setting up a little painting corner in her studio, letting the little one get messy and creative their their own canvas. I look forward to following Alysha's journey from entrepreneur to work at home mum and will be sure to update you once she settles in to this exciting new role.