Female leadership has undergone a major facelift in the past few decades. No longer does being a strong leader and being a woman mean that you have to shake off all traces of femininity. No longer does softness and empathy equal weakness.
Independent Educational Psychologist and all-round leading expert in Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health for youths and parents Dr Veronica Roberts recalls growing up in the early days of females rising in the 1980’s when women leaders needed to front with masculine traits.
“Whilst female leadership was beginning to be noticed, it was also heavily linked to the Iron Lady herself, along with mad shoulder pads and essentially being more of a man than a man,” she said.
Dr Roberts refers to one of the seminal political figures of the 20th century, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was known for her courage, resolve and fierce political agenda. Dubbed the Iron Lady, she was said to have paved the way for women throughout the 1980’s, forcing her way into the men’s club:
“It involved hardening your edges, learning how to push, dominate and never show weakness. This created an intimidating image and from my perspective. I didn’t measure up to the task, so I ruled leadership out of my options.”
However, after becoming a parent, something changed for Veronica. Like many new parents, she became plagued with doubt, guilt and ‘what if’ thoughts that were holding her back. As a highly trained psychologist, the mummy guilt beared down hard on her.
“Part of me believed that as a trained child psychologist, I should know what I was doing all of the time and the perfectionist in me also screamed that
I should be doing it perfectly all of the time. I judged myself so harshly for every perceived error I made and felt so incredibly vulnerable when I struggled in public. I felt like everyone would think I was a terrible mother, and rubbish at my job as well.”
“True leaders often don’t want to lead – they are called to lead. The vision leads them and they lead the people towards it.”
Amidst the home front chaos of feeding routines, nappy changes, preparing to go back to work and utter exhaustion, Veronica stumbled across a book titled, Things I wish I’d known – women tell the truth about motherhood, edited by Victoria Young. A collection of anecdotal parenting mishaps and adventures, sharing, laughing and proving that we are all human, this book lessened the guilt within Veronica. She began thinking about how she could promote this fresh perspective and encourage other parents to step up and support each other through all the ‘parenting mishaps’ of the everyday.
“[The book] made me realise that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and, it did not make me a terrible mother. I started to wonder if there was a way of
spreading that experience to others.”