Monday, April 4, 2016

Women Leadership

Do you believe in women leadership? I always did.

During my career as a chemist, manager of an environmental lab, and director of the analytical division of my company, I continuously fought to improve women’s status at work. I remember the quip of one of my male employees. “Hey boss, I am a young white male. Why do I feel like a minority here?” The whole staff burst out laughing. But Jim had a point. In my lab, there were more women than men. Not that I hired more women on purpose. Qualified chemists were difficult to find. We had to train the new hires. The hours were long, the job difficult and highly stressful with many government regulations, strict quality control and deadlines. Some chemists couldn’t cope with the pressure. Women seemed more resilient.
[Jim, if you read this. Know that you were one of the best chemists I ever had. You survived.]

When I started my own career, I had two small children and was often asked derogatory questions during job interviews, questions considered discriminatory today.
Who will take care of your kids when you are at work? The best daycare, not that it is any of your business!
Are you going to take off when they are sick? What do you think? Am I going to let them stay alone at home!
Can you stay long hours and overtime if necessary? Yes, sir, I am a professional. I have the feeling I will work harder than any man here to prove myself!
Yes, I did work harder than my male colleagues to prove myself. And I succeeded and was promoted.

But I always understood how difficult it was for a woman to make it in a man’s world. As a result, I managed my lab differently. Young mothers could take off when their kids were sick. They could come later or earlier than the classical 8:00am. Providing they put their forty hours a week and delivered their results on time, I didn’t care how they handled their schedule. A young mother with a sick kid could work in the evening when her husband was back from work, and stayed home with the sick child during the day.

Flexibility was the name of the game. With good salaries and regular increases, my employees didn’t mind hard work as long as they set their hours themselves. As a result, my lab became known for its low turnover and reliable staff.

Exhausted by my heavy responsibilities to corporate, to my staff and to the laboratory clients, and burnt out by the incredibly long hours of work I imposed on myself, I took an early retirement. A year later, the lab closed. My employees had no trouble finding jobs elsewhere, thanks to their thorough experience and the excellent references I gave them.

After being the boss for many years, I am now the good old friend who likes to hear about their family news. As the corporate office celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, the chief executive officers surprised me with this certificate of achievement.

All my heroines are career women--except this one.

Barbara made it her career to be a loving wife, a tender mother, a devoted volunteer...  Even after she lost her husband, she remained loyal to his memory. Until the day she meets Lou Roland, who'd never married, never loved a child, never cared about a woman except as a conquest.

Lou can't figure out why he is attracted to Barbara and why she absolutely refuses to fall into his arms. How can he change her?
And why is she changing him so much?