The start of my career began in a NZ call-centre in the late 90’s, as a very green customer service rep. In an environment where average handling times and delivery targets were the sole focus, and training was a continual part of the landscape, to expand the services I could provide, it was a blur of calls in the hundreds, on the daily. And underpinning all of this, were 8 women, who became pivotal to the success I’ve enjoyed to date.
Seven of these women were the team managers on the floor and if you can believe, only one male manager operated alongside them. One was also the General Manager of the 700-strong national operation. These women commanded the utmost respect from everyone, and I think, as with all things in life, it was their herbs and spices approach, with a steadfast commitment to transparent and honest communications, that helped elevate everyone around them.
As I moved through the ranks, I was afforded the opportunity to learn from all of these women and when I finally became a manager myself, I understood that my value was intrinsically entwined with my output and my conduct. In essence, my capabilities and my professionalism. At no time was gender ever part of the conversation, proven in fact by the one male manager who was paid equal to his female counterparts.
That said, by being part of the inner circle, I was exposed to some of the hard realities behind the success of the business. These women were all mothers and they were all wives and were all understandably, overly-committed by the demands of those roles, notwithstanding the senior leadership roles they all occupied too. And as progressive as the company was in having such a diverse corporate framework, they unequivocally expected a traditional working day, with interruptions from personal lives being seriously frowned upon. The layers of guilt and the subsequent overcompensation in working hours to “make up” for prioritising being a Mum and a wife, was a longstanding systemic issue. Being a wife and a mother of three myself, I now have a full appreciation of the sacrifices these women made and the impact their careers had on their loved ones, which is why I now better understand the lessons they all instilled in me.
And those lessons were straight forward:
- Lead by example
- Understand my worth
- And never settle
As Gervase Purich’s Executive Assistant for 10+ years, I am fortunate to support someone who espouses my same beliefs and is aligned with those early career lessons, that I continue to draw upon. As a result, I enjoy a flexibility and level of trust, that I know those managers from the call-centre would be applauding. 90% of my role is worked remotely, which was a work condition that existed before COVID, and because of understanding my own worth and never settling, I am able to give myself equally to my family and my job. I do however understand that this is a privileged position; one which many women have to fight for and often do not achieve.
In my experience, those in leadership positions are often striving to leave remarkable legacies, looking for big-ticket opportunities to leave a mark on something (or anything), which can sometimes distract from doing good, with what is sitting right in front of you. I’ve always felt very comfortable with my purpose being quieter, which is why I hope my legacy, mirrors that which was gifted to me by my early career female mentors. In leading by example, I hope that our company PA’s are likewise empowered to make their jobs work for them, because they understand their worth. And when they themselves are leaders and begin to instil those same or improved values, to new PA’s beginning their own careers, we’re achieving something as a collective of women, that is bigger than the working environment I started in 25 years ago. And that is a good swing of the needle in my view.
Fun Fact. That one male manager is now my husband, who is also an 8-year veteran of Structerre himself. And in the interest of demonstrating Structerre’s equality, he also enjoys the same flexible and dynamic work environment as me. Our three children are very lucky to have parents who have their career and family buckets, equally filled.
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