Last week I had the real pleasure of hearing a talk by Dr Heather McGregor, aka Mrs Moneypenny of the Financial Times. Frank, forthright and funny, she was imparting the benefit of her wisdom, gained over many years placing men and women in top jobs, to an audience of Sixth Formers at Wellington College, but what she had to say was relevant to women at all stages of their careers – and, indeed, lives.
One particular point she made struck home. She was quite clear: in life, you need to do much more than just work and run a home – you need to have a third dimension. This could perhaps be a particular hobby or passion, or it could be doing something for others in a structured and organised way, helping to make a difference in their lives. As part of the same conference she was interviewing Helena Morrissey, the highly successful CEO of Newton Investment Management, and founder of the Thirty Per Cent Club, which aims to ensure that boardrooms have at least 30% representation by women by 2015, and it was quite obvious that this ‘third dimension’ to Ms Morrissey’s life was both personally enriching and enhanced the other two main centres of her life. As a mother she was as a result more focused on making sure that her children had no psychological barriers that would stop them achieving because of their gender; and as a CEO she was committed to more effective board management (remember, of course, that studies have shown that greater diversity – including gender diversity – on boards leads to greater effectiveness). Above all, she is seeking to make a difference in the world, and this translates into all the areas of her life in a unifying and really quite powerful fashion.
Sometimes – particularly in the early stages of their careers – women feel they have no time for a ‘third dimension’, but when they work out how to manage it all, and rise above the day-to-day routine that can limit creative work and life patterns, then finding a way to pursue their passion and do something that really, really matters, can be truly liberating and empowering. It completes the picture and closes the circle; more than this, it reaches out to others and fulfils the responsibility that we all have to play a bigger part in our community and world. This is what society is all about – together we are stronger, and each of us must take it upon ourselves to stretch out beyond the bounds of our day-to-day lives.
Mrs Moneypenny was right – and this is not just good careers advice; it is good life advice. Her book – Careers Advice for Ambitious Women – is out in January. I think you will find it excellent.