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Naomi Simson family

I was forwarded a news article this week about Facebooks #2 leader: Sheryl Sandberg. She had been at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland – on the eve of Facebooks listing announcement. She has been quoted as saying women need to aim high “Keep your foot on the gas pedal.” I was curious to understand what she meant by this. I definitely don’t believe that women need to ‘give up their femininity’ to succeed. In fact there is nothing worse than trying to do business with an aggressive, pushy woman (or man for that matter).

I considered that perhaps it was a cultural thing. But after listening to her TED talk on the topic (view below) I have to concur that much of what she says does translate to Australia.

This generation we will barely make a dent on the number of women in board rooms around Australia – nor in senior leadership roles – but the point she raises is what do we tell our daughters… and our sons. What lessons do we impart to inspire them to make the choices they want without fear of failure.

Sheryl gives us three insights.

1. ‘Sit at the table’ – this means women need to really participate, make a statement, stand up for themselves – don’t underestimate your own ability. ‘Own your own your success.’ This could be viewed as slightly pushy however how often do women not apply for the job that they don’t have every skill for – whilst their male equivalent would put himself forward.’

There will be sacrifices that we make for playing a bigger game… and these are sacrifices that our brothers wont have to make.

I was having dinner with my daughter (16) and son (14) over the holidays – and my son asked me if I would prefer to be a man or a woman… I instantly responded ‘A woman’ – when he asked the same question of my daughter, after some deliberation she said ‘A man’ when I questioned why she said – ‘they just get everything easier.’ – This saddened me. At such a young age my daughter is already seeing limitations…

2. ‘Make your partner a real partner’ – Sheryl laments that in fact there has been more progress with equality in the workplace than on the domestic front. She said working women work twice as hard on domestic chores and do three times the childcare than their male counterparts.  She wonders if it is because from a very young age society puts more pressure on males to succeed. We need to make it easier for males to stay it home – too. Men are not always welcomed at playgroup.

Interesting that a number of years ago I was called up to see the vice principal of my daughters school – as the spirited girl she is she had pushed the boundaries and they wanted to discuss it with me specifically rather than my husband who was the primary after school carer.

This successful female educator said ‘Your daughter just needs to see more of you – you travel a lot for work and she misses you terribly’ – I responded – ‘she does have a parent with her every night of the week; her father…’ She realized what she had just said. Here was one successful career woman telling another that the role model I was being for my daughter was not appropriate. And this was from a leader of a girl’s school – at that point I did ask what they were teaching the girls about financial independence and fulfilling careers…

Stereo typing is very, very hard to change

3. ‘Don’t leave before you leave’ – Sheryl said that in planning for a pregnancy and to have ‘children’ fit neatly into a career often means that women are planning to take time out of their career long before they need to. In fact they might even hold back on a promotion or responsibility because they think ‘I might not be here next year’.

From the moment women think about having a baby…they might be less career focused as such their job may become far less fulfilling. Yet once you have a child at home to return to work is a massive sacrifice. So your job better be rewarding, challenging and you really need to be making a difference because otherwise it is too hard and simply not worth the cost (both financially and emotionally).

If you took your foot off the ‘gas’ too early in your career ie you didn’t take a promotion for instance then this might mean you don’t have the ‘best’ job to return to. I wrote a blog about this very thing some months ago.

I concur with Sheryl – we want to teach our children to make powerful choices on what they want to do. Not what they think is prescribed for them – because that is how it has always been.

Reader Interactions


  1. I saw this video on TED a couple of weeks ago and it really hit home. I always assumed I accepted that power and leadership was equally distributed between the sexes, but during the video it became blatantly obvious that there is still a long way to go. What became even more obvious was that it is MY responsibility as a woman to make sure that I contribute towards that equality. And then I realised I had to really (and I mean REALLY) accept myself as an equal first.

    Having just started a start-up there was some discussion whether I, the only female in the team and incidentally the only business graduate, should take the leadership position. After watching this video I was determined to not step back simply because I was female so *wait for this*… I accepted to MYSELF that I am equally if not more capable for the role, and only once I really accepted that as the truth for myself, my mindset changed and I allowed myself to transform into that leader. Thanks to all the remarkable women (and men!) out there that spark these realisations for us!

  2. A blog and a video that gives so much pause for thought. Having started my 2 children at a new school, I have worried more about my son, whilst a deep intuitive part of me knew my daughter would be just fine. Yes personality, but is it also shared knowledge of gender? After all, my son walked out of his first week with a certificate for starting his new school with immense confidence. So whilst I worried for him, he certainly didn’t!

    As a strong woman myself, perhaps I make too many assumptions about my daughter being the same. Like your own, she is spirited and believes all boundaries are for testing. I would hate for her to think that men or boys have it easier. But perhaps it’s the self belief, as Sheryl Sandberg shared about her sports-focused younger brother after the exam he didn’t study for. Your daughter may think men have it easier because men believe they are deserving of ease. While too many women question ease, or deflect it to external reasons beyond themselves.

  3. Naomi, your daughter is very fortunate to have such a strong and motivated mum! This is a great article and I love how passionate you are 🙂

  4. Thanks April – I feel very fortunate myself to have such a wonderfully motivated daughter. We just saw that movie ‘Any Questions for Ben’ – and she was so disappointed in the movies – asking “why should that looser guy end up with the attractive, accomplished, focused, successful woman? He did not deserve her.” The movie frustrated her… So glad she could see that. She did not think ‘pathetic male’ was cute at all.

  5. Also Colette, thanks for thanking the role models – all of us need people that we can believe in and count on.

  6. Regarding the girls’ school leader’s comments: As a mother of daughters and a parent in a two-parent home with experience with when one of us was “there” more than the other…I strongly believe that daughters need both father and mother equally. Why think that “any parent” can give what is needed every time? Girls are learning to be people who are women, and they are learning this from and with us, and that includes our experiences, feelings, and most of all…our listening and knowing the contexts of their questions and what they are talking about…what’s on their minds. This requires time and investment in it…with them. Dads can and often do listen equally well, but each parent in such a home gives uniquely. I would not ignore any advice about my children needing more time with me. It hurts to be so advised (been there on other issues), but being defensive is too easy. I enjoy your articles.


  1. Free Childcare Australia | FaceBook leaders gives 3 reasons for lack of women says:

    […] blog first appeared on I was particularly interested in establishing if the US experience might be different to the […]

  2. […]     A few months ago I commented on Sheryl Sandberg TED talk in a blog post entitled: Three insights into why we lack women leaders. Which continues to make me […]

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