Sunday, 16 September 2012

Ambitious woman would like to meet...

I've been stewing on all the motivational articles I've read around the Olympics and Paralympics recently, and coupled with watching The Thick of It last night I remembered something that has been bothering me for almost ten years.

I used to work in political communications. The office was largely staffed by young women in their twenties - first or second jobbers. And a senior (male) colleague asked one day if any of us would like mentors. Yes, I said, and named the head of communications at Downing Street*. But that was too ambitious, I was told, and he wouldn't even approach him about it. The trouble with bolshy ambitious young women, he said, was we wanted too much, too soon, and that we should do things gradually without always looking ahead to the future. 

Try telling that to Jessica Ennis, or Victoria Pendleton, or Nicola Adams.

It pissed me off at the time, and it pisses me off even more now I am mum to a girl. The idea that anyone might try to thwart her ambition one day, whatever that ambition might be, is incredibly upsetting. In fact my main job, other than, you know, to love and clothe and feed and shelter her and try to encourage her to be a kind human being and nurture her inquisitiveness and give her fun memories and all of that, is to give her the confidence and self-belief and ambition, not only to want as a mentor the best person she can think of in whatever field she wants to enter, but to tell the person who says she can't where to go. 

I see from Facebook that the other woman he was referring to at the time also has a little girl. Luckily, I also know that he doesn't. So within a generation it may all work out okay.


*By the way David Hill, I think you would have been a great mentor for me. Not only did I grow up in Walthamstow, where you live, but I too could be described,as you were in a BBC Profile, as "...lively, quarrelsome, occasionally aggressive - and extremely good company." Have your people call my people...

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