In a senior/middle management role and have few or no female colleagues as peers or at the next level up?
Welcome to being a role model!
Don’t want to be a role model ?
This is how other people, particularly women will now view you.
Personally, I find nothing more frustrating than when I see a women on TV who has just become the first at being a [pilot/surgeon/base jumper/chef] and then say something like ‘oh I don’t want to be a role model’ when what they fail to appreciate is that they just are. No one is going to add that into a job description but the expectation from the women in your company will exist. Although I do think in corporate situations it would be good if very senior management acknowledged that this extra pressure and responsibility is placed on women who are ‘firsts’ or even seconds or thirds (or first one we’ve had in a while etc.) There is a huge expectation on women who are first and this expectation continues while there continue to be only a few women in senior roles even if there is a long history of having a one or two women in a leadership team. One to two women in a ten person team are role models. Four to six women is just the way it is and only then is being a role model a choice. Even if no one else around you is acknowledging this expectation, then at the very least you should. To ignore it, means choosing to not take advantage of a great opportunity to influence your organisation.
So how to deal with this responsibility without the pressure translating into conflicting priorities, lower confidence and lower achievement in the office?
The ‘role model’ tag is a great opportunity to network and influence in your organisation. Organise and attend women only events and discussions to increase your organisational knowledge of who’s who and what’s going on, mentor more junior female colleagues to keep across perceptions and outcomes at the lower-level that senior management often gets shielded from. Write blog posts, articles and increase your overall brand external to the organisation. This will make being a role model a great positive to your career. It can also be a great positive for the women in your organisation. So even if you don’t want to be a champion of women, accepting this role will help your career. This will help you value the role and make it feel less like a burden.
Use this momentum and the support of women in your company to build a fabulous case for change and a way of sustaining the change momentum. You will gain the loyalty, support and respect of your colleagues and make our society a better place all at the same time.
Now, who wouldn’t want to be a role model when all of that is possible !!