The future of children is every parent’s lifetime project. In this article I share a short story about my Mom, the dreams I have for my daughter and how this is linked to my leadership style and women in the workforce.
My mother raised my sister and me alone. I used to say that she played the role of Mom and Dad. She was 31 and my sister and I were 10 years and 8-month-old respectively when she had to start her life again and alone. At that time, in the 1970’s and 80’s in Brazil, especially in a small town, being divorced or being the son of a divorced mother was seen with a lot prejudice by the society – driven by old dogmas which are not relevant for this article. For me as child, and then later as teenager, life was not easy and I witnessed the struggles of my Mom and my older sister to afford a decent life for us. Although it was tough, there was much love and I am very proud of the values and learnings taught by them in my upbringing.
It is fact that she was ’doing both’ – being both Mom and Dad. This still reflects today what I think differentiates Mom to Dad when it comes to raising a family, managing the expenses of a house, being responsible for the education of kids and, besides all of that, being the breadwinner and a successful professional. I think the difference is that women do more by handling the two journeys – office and home. And I personally think man would have very hard time doing it (and here I am talking about myself).
Reflecting today I believe my Mom faced a lot of challenges placed by society, and sexest views affecting her on different levels including professional opportunity. In this article I share my personal perspective of women as professionals and what I dream for my daughter.
In shipping, where I work, historically it has been a very male-dominated industry. When I started back in 1994 it was still predominately managed by men, but that is changing. Nevertheless, this is no longer a trend. Organizations like IMO and WISTA are making a concerted effort to help the industry move on from that tradition and to help women achieve a larger representation. Executive trainings like Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) help. The group I have been serving is also doing a lot on that front and target for 2018 is 27% female as Senior Managers, 19% Leaders and 18% at the executive level.
I have never had a woman manager, but had the pleasure to have female direct reports and also peers working side-by-side as strong leaders in my organization. One of them definitely stood out among others and she was a great source of inspiration for me. She was strong, self-driven and delivered outstanding results to the business. In one of our peer-coach sessions I candidly confided that should my daughter had 50% of her strength and drive, I could rest in peace that her future would be bright.
Talking about my daughter, I have a short story to share about her determination and focus after a ‘crucial conversation’ we had. Something I want her to carry for life and which will help on her professional career.
In 2008 when we moved from Brazil, my daughter was 5-years-old and didn’t speak Spanish or English. Quite a transition for a kid. After 6 months at her new school and nearing the second term, the head teacher called my wife to inform that our daughter wouldn’t progress to the next year level because she was not following the learning of other kids. The teacher suspected that it was her lack of knowledge about the language (English). I was driving home when my wife called to tell me. I concede I got a bit disappointed with her but later I realised it was me who was ‘too busy’ and not giving the support she needed.
It was time to have a ‘crucial conversation’ with my daughter. We wanted her to do great and, the same as I shared in my previous post and my son’s competition, it depended on her only and here was the magic with her. I told her that in a queue there are always the first and last place. Her father will always strive to be among the first ones and I asked, what part of the queue you want to be in? (Making an analogy to her situation at school). Her answer was firm and emphatic “I want to be the number one”.
Having that answer I continued “you understand that you will have to put in extra effort”. We would need to pay booster classes and that extra money would have to be taken from our (her) leisure activities. She understood and agreed.
At that period I was taking English tutoring with a British natural Robert Risdom. I shared with Robert the dilemma we were facing and asked whether he could help our daughter. Robert was very candid to me saying “Domingos, I am not young anymore and kids usually don’t take classes seriously”. I told him that won’t happen with her. The only free spot on his agenda was on Sundays at 7am. We called home in conference and spoke with her. She said “I want to take classes”. Cousin Robert, as she kindly calls him, remembers the first day he came, she was sitting in our front door waiting for him.
Long story short, after two months the head teacher approached my wife again to inform that our daughter was doing great. At the end of the year during parents and teacher conference her teacher shared with us that she knew all the challenges our daughter underwent and because of that, in her view, she was the number one in her class. Although young, and this all happened a long time ago, my daughter still remembers that and undoubtedly carries important lessons for her life. In this story it depended on her only. Had that been in business, would it be the same outcome?
She is now nearing 13 and we are very close to each other. Part of my 2016-new-year-resolution was to spend valuable time with my kids, and whenever possible, have one day just for us. This day we go somewhere for a coffee, an ice-cream or just a walk. Then we openly talk about anything and everything (I learn a lot from my daughter). Then I listen and show genuine appreciation and interest for the things she wants to share. I value her ideas and encourage her to pursue her dreams. It is my objective to make her know that she can achieve whatever she wants. Being a man (and her father) I want to set the standard for her life. When she comes to the work environment I want her to remember the relationship we had. One based on trust where she feels confident to share her thoughts, defend her opinions and be respected by others (irrespective of gender) for what she is and what she knows. Thus she will be getting professional opportunities and never be restricted by her gender. This is the dream I dream for her!
“Show interest in the career that you have chosen and willingness to do every job, and that will be rewarded.” ~ Captain Lou Mitchell, Lecturer, UK Marine College
My daughter has solid values. She is strong and very sweet at the same time. She is very resilient, determined and competitive – I think she took what is best from her Mom and myself. We have big dreams for her. We want her to succeed in whatever she engages herself to do. Seeing the increase of on women gaining more and more exposure on professional fields, we feel very positive about her professional future and our duty is to make sure she is ready when the time comes.
What do these lessons mean to me as a Son, Father, Husband and Leader?
As a Son – My Mom is no longer with us. She passed away in 2011 but the lessons she taught me remain vivid in me as a person and a professional. Lessons such as a passion for what we do, respect for others and resilience. If I had to summarize this experience and her story in one word, I would say DREAM! I can only think that she stood strong because she dreamed great dreams for my sister and I. Bringing it to my life.
As a Father – Now it is my turn to dream great dreams for my daughter. To help her by paving the way to make them come true. By raising her on principles and values that will help her accomplishing them. She can be whatever she wants. It depends on her! I want her to be respected by others (irrespective of gender) for what she is (her values), what she knows (her intellect) and to become a successful business woman. That is the dream I dream for her!
As a Husband – I must take every single opportunity to demonstrate how grateful I am to my wonderful wife who has abdicate from her own career to help me on mine (my dreams). I used to say that Priscila is my wife and personal coach, a devoted mother and an inspiration for me as a person for her positive thinking, honesty and the outstanding ability to listen and understand others. She is definitely my north star.
As a Leader – putting it short, I have the responsibility to map, identify and develop talents. To assign task according to the aptitude and capability of my people irrespective of gender, religion or ethnicity. Period.
To comment about this article please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.