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The “smear test” and inspiring others to do what they least want to do

I love my doctor.  Partly because her combined GP and psychology training means she can sort out my anxiety and ailments all in one visit!  But mainly because as a busy working mum, she really gets it.  She gets that we don’t always put ourselves first.  She gets that we’re busy. And she gets there are things we really don’t want to do – like having that regular pap smear.  And so she has a process for making sure busy women like me can’t mean to do it, but never get around to it.

My doctor is so in tune with working women that her practice has a process for dealing with our types: when a pap test is due, I receive a letter in the mail not only reminding me that it’s time, but also with a booked-in appointment made on a Saturday, a few weeks out, so I don’t have to take time off work to do it.  Her practice is child-friendly so I can take Ethan with me if I need to.  And she combines the test we all hate to have with a thorough exam just to uncover those other niggling issues you’ve been living with until you get time to get to the doctors for a check up.

She knows that you have to make it easy for busy women to say yes, so it doesn’t just become another job on that never ending “to do” list. Of course she probably doesn’t always get it right with guessing appointment times, but that’s beside the point (and in my case I’m more likely to change an appointment to a time that suits me than to ring and book in the first place).

And of course not everyone reading this post will need to have a pap smear (sorry to the good guys reading – it’s just one of those things for us gals) but Dr Lie’s “smear test” is one that we could all apply when it comes to getting to “yes” on most fronts.


Whether you’re selling a job, a product or a service, you’ll have more chance of connecting with both men and women if you make it easy for them to say yes, in just one step.

And with the time constraints most working women are under, it is absolutely essential to make it simple.


My research has shown that 27% of women who are offered a promotion will turn it down, due to a lack of confidence in their ability to do the job; 28% decline promotions due to work-life balance concerns and 33% due to family commitments.  So if you want to see more women at the top in your business, you need to apply the “smear test” and proactively consider what are the things most likely to make the women say no – and make sure your offer counters these from the start.

This could mean setting up buddy or mentoring arrangements while she settles into the new role; appropriate personal and professional development as part of her package; offering flexible start and finish times; and ensuring she has the technology to work remotely when required.

And to the woman who asked at my presentation to the EY Women in IT Community why should we bother to do this?  Because we now know that those organisations that do go to the effort of attracting, retaining and developing their women – and making it easy for them to progress through the ranks – achieve stronger financial performance

And that is, after all, the end game of business.


PS. For those of you overdue for a pap smear – and you know who you are – pick up the phone and book it in today!


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