We launched the Lead Mama Lead blog in 2017, and it has been an exciting time for our growing community. I have really enjoyed sharing my own experiences and hearing from other mama leaders about how you are helping push for change in our workplaces, our homes, and society in general. We are all making our own changes to help show that motherhood and career are compatible, and the flexible work should be available to everyone (not just women) to remove the stigmas about part time and flexible work.
Below are some of my highlights of 2017 – the books, people and mama leadership moments that have inspired me most on my own motherhood and leadership journey this year. Please note that the books are available for purchase. If you click on the link, the price is the same for you, but Lead Mama Lead gets a small commission.
What I read
Have you been reading along with the mama leadership book club? The new year would be a great time to start your own book group with some like-minded friends, or come and find the Mama Leadership Book Group on Facebook right now (just search for “Mama Leadership Book Group”). Here are my three top reads on mama leadership this year (the second book is actually on our 2018 reading list).
1. Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett
This great book was full of insight (and written with great humour), and has helped me recognise behaviours at work that I can influence, like Manterrupter, or the Bropropriator. This Cosmo article has a great summary of some of the best moves to counter these characters, which include leaning in (literally) to mirror the body language of the guy who keeps talking over you or thanking the guy who tried to steal credit for your idea (“so glad you agree, let’s talk about next steps”).
You can read my full review of Feminist Fight Club here.
2. Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu
Our own Mama Leader Ruth wrote a cracking review of Drop the Ball, which led the whole team to read this book and embrace many of Tiffany’s suggestions. This book has pushed me have some challenging conversations with my partner and think about what standards we are setting ourselves that are more about doing it all, than engaging with work and family the way we want to.
In my house, these conversations have led to my husband having a much better understanding of the “mental load” I carry, and taking on some new roles. For me, it has meant letting go of how some things get done (or whether we even do them anymore). Why does it matter to me what my daughter wears to school, if she is comfortable and able to play properly? Why was I spending so much energy on keeping a house to an impossible level of cleanliness (when I never did that before kids anyway)? Now, my husband sees things I used to ask about, and has even taken on some new tasks as his own. I find I am now better at putting my self-care ahead of a load of washing or cleaning!
Here is Ruth:
…we need to disrupt the ‘dumb dad’ stereotype, that men are incompetent carers. Micro-managing does not bring desired results. As Tiffany Dufu eloquently states, “good managers communicate their vision and allow their teams to create and execute their own plans to get there”. With this knowledge, dropping the ball allows space for men to step up responsibility at home and share the load. We need to allow for things to be done differently in the home, rather than micromanaging with detailed lists, preparing meals in advance when we’re away, and criticising. This isn’t about stroking egos. This allows space to drop the ball and achieve our own professional aspirations and also allows for more creative solutions to household issues.
Tiffany Dufu’s excellent book shows why we need drop the ball, and how to do so. Her book is both a memoir and tool kit in one. Her analysis is backed up by research, and her strategies are informed by her expertise in leadership. She is an inspiration and someone to relate to. She reaches out to her audience with warmth and reveals the mistakes she’s made along the way so that others might not have to repeat them. Highly recommended reading.
Who inspired me
1. Senator Katy Gallagher
In my first ever interview (not only for Lead Mama Lead, but ever), I interviewed ACT Senator Katy Gallagher, who is also a former ACT Chief Minister.
My favourite background on Katy before we chatted about her mama leadership journey was the big changes she made in the local government in Canberra. When she was in the position of Deputy Chief Minister, she reformed the way the Legislative Assembly functioned – created more reasonable sitting hours, changed expectations around flexible working and was available to be with her kids for critical moments like school concerts and swimming carnivals – and helped she helped establish a different attitude in the Assembly, despite some hostile opposition.
Now, I’m proud to say that we have over 50% female representation in the Assembly, made easier in part by Katy seeing where changes needed to be made, and making them happen for herself, and the women (and other parents) who have followed her.
2. The growing Lead Mama Lead community
I came to Lead Mama Lead at a low point, having returned to work only to find myself straight onto the “mummy track”. Despite my experience, clear articulation of my ambition, and previous leadership role, I was expected to sit in the corner, quietly do whatever I was told, and not try and be part of anything meaningful or important. A friend added me to the Lead Mama Lead Facebook group, and within months I had connected with Summer (the visionary mama leader behind this movement), and offered to write for the blog and help with the Lead Mama Lead mission.
Every day when I jump onto our growing (private) Facebook group, I am so proud of the mama leaders who are pushing for change in your own ways, and seeking advice and support from our mama leader village. I hope more of you can join us at our community workshops in Canberra (if you happen to live locally) so we can continue to connect with this supportive community of mama leaders in real life too!
Mama leadership moments
1. Breastfeeding in Parliament House
High Court rulings and her resignation from Parliament aside, seeing (former) Greens MP Larissa Waters breastfeeding her baby in the Australian Senate in June was a mama leadership highlight for me. This won’t be the last time kids appear in the halls of power, though as Katy Gallagher mentioned in our interview, it is punishing job for people who don’t live in Canberra already and want to be actively part of their kids lives. So a good start, but a long way to go on gender equality on the Hill!
2. Normalising CEO mama leadership
At a recent CEO and senior leaders breakfast, I was delighted when the chair of the event, a mother of four and Secretary of a major Australian Government department, said “I am going to keep us on time, I’m doing the school run this morning”. You can’t be what you can’t see – and here was a group of senior and up and coming leaders, almost equal numbers of men and women, experiencing a perfectly normal school run from someone who prioritised her kids and her leadership role.
I can’t wait to see the inspiring stories of mama leadership that emerge in 2018!
Take this topic further:
- Leadership growth comes from committing to nourish your own leadership, and connecting to your allies and peers. We have created the Mama Leadership book group format to help you do this. Start your own book group with your mama friends and commit to walk your leadership journey together. It’s a great resolution for your 2018.
- If you feel as though your leadership needs some inspiration, our Leadership Foundations Coaching Program is designed to find your direction back on track if you are feeling lost after children. Reinvigorate your career, and find a new and better suited path for yourself with the guidance of an experience mentor and leadership coach. We are currently taking booking for the 2018, and if you book before the end of the year you will save $50 off the 2018 price of $380.