For the past three years I’ve been contemplating my next career move: what direction should I take, on which path, for what end? I’ve tied myself in knots trying to figure it out. And I could never have imagined my a-ha moment would come from an innocent conversation between two five-year-old boys. Yet in that moment, the solution became crystal clear. To improve the lives of women and their career opportunities, my focus needed shift.
The catalyst began a couple of months ago when my five-year-old son was playing after school with his best mate, who happens to have a younger brother. When Peter tried to join in the games with the older boys, they muttered the words that stung through my ears all the way to my heart: “You can’t play with us Petie ‘cause you run like a girl”.
Run like a girl? Could these words really have come from the mouth of my beautiful boy? My boy, the son of a feminist mother and feminist father. Our boy who plays with his girl-friends in the school yard, as much as the boys. Where did this language come from and how could I reprogram it?
In the very same week I’d received a link to this video clip that you’ve probably seen (but if you haven’t, you must). Gulp.
Around the same time I became aware of an opening as Chief Executive Officer in an organisation called Peer Support Australia, which is focused squarely on improving the mental, social and emotional wellbeing of kids. Its Peer Support Program empowers and equips children to deal with challenges they face in the school yard and beyond. Challenges like how to respond to bullying, social exclusion and self-esteem issues. Every year the lives of about 500,000 Australian students are improved through their involvement in the program. A big number by any stretch.
I know Peer Support well, having served on the board for over seven years and as Chair for almost four. The mandate was to lead the organisation into the digital age, expand the reach and brand recognition of the program, and build strong new relationships with key stakeholders. It seemed only logical that I throw myself at this opportunity. So I’m delighted that the Board of Peer Support Australia has just announced my appointment as their new CEO. So its my turn again to lead like a girl.
This is a big shift and a big opportunity for me to take a well respected organisation into its next phase of growth and development. And its my first leadership role in the not for profit sector, which like most others is on the lookout out for more female leaders.
I cannot wait to get my feet under the desk, and to share my leadership wins, quests for wisdom, and perhaps the occasional war story. But first I need to send a big thanks to all of my friends out there who have supported me (and continue to support me) in this journey, you know who you are and you know how much you mean to me.
Oh, and talking of running like a girl, are you following the story of Australian Samantha Gash who set off last week to run on average 80km per day for 32 days on South Africa’s 2350km Freedom Trail?? Sam is raising money and awareness to free young African women of their menstrual cycle and the impact it has on their education and earning capacity. AMAZING! And you can find out more here. You run, girl!