WOMEN CAN HAVE IT ALL, OR CAN THEY?

A recent report by PWC revealed that of the top 40 Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies only one company had a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In Africa only 5% of women hold this position, according to the 2016 Women Matter Africa report by McKinsey & Company.

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These statistics show that achieving their prospective career and personal life goals is clearly still a major challenge for many women. For those women who are aspiring corporate go-getters, who at the same time want to be a good partner and mother, it is important to be realistic in order to be successful.

Many women want it all. They want the corporate title, to travel the world, to have a great family life, be a present mother and partner, exercise and maintain a nutritious diet, while also finding the time to give back to society in some way. While women, by nature, are great multitaskers, when attempting to juggle so many balls in the air, eventually something will have to give.

Quite frankly, women need to realise it is close to impossible to have it all. When a high powered career woman with a family gives the impression that all areas of her life are perfect, it is without a doubt a façade. She is either lying to the world or to herself.

As the CEO of the South African arm of a global company who lives between three cities (Cape Town, Johannesburg and Paris) and only sees her children, at most, three nights a week, I often envy the lifestyles of non-corporate moms. While I love the stimulation and challenges my senior corporate role provides, I often wish I could have some of the moments stay-at-home mothers get to share with their children and family.

So how do I cope with my highly demanding career that has me constantly travelling in an airplane? Well, I had to find a balance that worked for my family and myself, which meant I had to give up certain things while taking on others. I made this choice in order to pursue my career dreams and, as result, it is my duty to ensure my family is adequately cared for. I am truly blessed because I have a supportive network, which includes my children, my husband as well as my ex-husband and amazing friends. While this may sound like a very weird balancing act, it seems to do exactly that—balance.

I would like to share the following life hacks with other women looking to break through that glass ceiling. These guidelines have proved to make a massive difference in my life and I urge all career-driven women to give them a try and experience the difference it can make in their pursuit of finding a healthy work-life balance.

Build a brand

Use the wealth of social media platforms, such as blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn, to build a strong, professional personal brand and stay connected with the rest of the world. Always be mindful of what you are posting—these platforms often serve as a first impression for many employers. This could prove to be the key differentiator between you and your dream job.

Ignore the jealousy

There will always be some sort of envy in the workplace, whether it is gender orientated or a form of hierarchical jealousy. The key is to focus on the task at hand and ensure you are clear about your own career goals in order not to lose focus.

Money talks

The gender pay gap is still a very big issue not only in South Africa, but also the world. A global report conducted by Accenture in 2016, which included South Africa, found that in South Africa, for every US$100 a woman earns, a man earns US$191 (compared to the global US$140).

My advice for women to overcome these hurdles is to lean in and insist on earning your dues. Our constitution promotes gender equality at all times and it is firmly within your rights to insist on being paid an equal salary to men. In those cases where you are in a position of power, make sure you bring the change you would like to see in the workplace.

A man is not a plan

There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most important milestones in a woman’s life is true financial independence. Make sure you are in full control of your financial wellbeing. Whilst we cannot deny the amazing feeling of achievement when owning that first Louis Vuitton handbag, buying it cash with your own money is really what it is all about.

Join a club

Make the time and effort to join a female networking club, such as The Voices Club. Here, you will find like-minded women to network with, who will also understand your unique challenges as a woman in business and they will provide support through testing times.

Find your style

Being a working mother means that we have no time. If you are clear on your personal fashion style and you keep it simple, your life will be so much easier. Dressing in the morning and packing for business trips becomes a breeze. My advice is, first and foremost, to stick with a colour theme such as black, white and cream with a splash of red on the lips (advice taken from Coco Chanel).

Health is wealth

It does not matter how busy you are—there is always time to exercise. When your children are young, find a trainer and go to the gym at 5am. That means you will never have an excuse not to go and your exercise regime will be done by the time your family wakes up. You have to be unapologetic about this alone time because your health is your wealth.

In closing, I cannot stress how important it is to be your authentic self.

It will give you the opportunity to lead by example at all times. It is true that if you are living your authentic self, you will never have any competition.

Having made the tough decisions I have (to not have it all), I can teach my children that pursuing your dreams comes with many sacrifices. I can teach them by my own example, that rags to riches stories are not fairy tales and do come true, that girls can be strong leaders without losing their gentleness and that the more you give, the more you get.

I may not have it all, but I live a charmed life and I would not change a single thing.

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