It’s not the envy of younger generations, I hasten to add; the idea that I would have been selected to fill a quota is off-putting in the extreme. We earned our right to sit at boardroom tables, serve on committees and benchmark our industries through working very hard, possibly harder that our male counterparts, in order to prove our worth – to not only the world but also ourselves.
It is the understanding that this generation knows that nothing is given you, everything can be taken from you and that every day is a battle well won, through grit and determination.
At 20, I was told that I could not take over my boss’ job in forex dealing at a bank because I could not cope with the stress – at 25, he had just collapsed with a bleeding ulcer! At 24, I was told that as a newly wed, I should be thinking about a family, not a career – after all, I was quite ‘old’ to not be a mother yet.
However, by 30, I was editing a technical magazine in the plastics industry and serving on two association committees – to the delight of many male colleagues, who saw this as a welcome break in the classic glass ceiling.
By 35, I had launched a PR and marketing partnership and, in my ignorance, did it simply on the basis that it was a good idea, I was good at providing the service and that the market would support me! Didn’t know you were supposed to have a business plan, contracts or a safety net; didn’t even have a husband. I will point out that single mothers are quite ferocious about surviving and many baby boomers were single by this stage.
Being a small business had its rewards – I could take time off to watch my children play cricket in primary school and I could choose my working hours (but they were usually long and late). The downside was the financial stress and feeling of bitter disappointment when business ventures or partners failed and it happened more than once, proving my inability to learn from mistakes!
However, through my clients I made friends, learnt valuable lessons and created successful communication campaigns. I learnt far more than a business degree could have taught me about marketing and advertising; sales and people and the true value of technology, as a tool not a god.
Today, I like to tell prospective clients, “I may not seem up to date with analytics nor enamoured with social media but I do understand how to use language as a scientific tool, how to create leadership statements for women in senior positions and how to build and maintain reputations. Some things can’t be Googled – like 30 year’s of experience.”