Bossy by cartoonist Maeve O’Keeffe

Cartoons from, Cartoonist. Illustrator, Cork, Ireland, Maeve O'Keeffe

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now that exams are over and secondary school students will either do a course, get a job or loll in bed late to taunt younger siblings still stuck for another few days in Primary, some might wonder was the swotting worth it?   Will these students get that coveted college place or muster confidence to take their first step on the career ladder?

And what about girls?  Year after year we hear how females typically outperform boys in exam results.  Do these high achievers invariably win top jobs or is it still a ‘man’s world’?  Despite the feminist movement and academic success, the majority of managers, CEOs and company directors continue to be male. 

Could this gender inequality be a cultural problem, stemming from childhood where strong-willed young boys are jokingly praised “Oh, he’s the boss!” while strong-minded girls are more likely to be derided?  “She’s bossy,” can be derogatory and little different from being labelled “a bitch,”instead of commending “She’s got leadership potential!”

A friend remembered at the age 10 being asked the perennial “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  At the time she was toying with a bandage on her finger and had vague notions of medicine.  “A doctor,” she answered brightly.  “I couldn’t believe it,” she told me, “These older women LAUGHED at me!  I might as well have said I wanted to be president or fly to the moon!”  She didn’t become a doctor (outgrew the idea by 12) and is now successfully self-employed.

Guess what?  More girls than ever are qualifying for medicine and attaining top marks but will this expertise transfer to the workplace?  Will these alpha scholars be awarded top jobs and positions of power in years to come?  Or be sidelined to battle between career and motherhood?

Feminism has got us so far.  The challenge for this generation is how to make being at work WORK?  Is there a better way than our current childcare system and inflexible working hours to ensure that employees have a quality and cost effective work/life balance, while employers, too, are ensured reliable service?  Maybe this will transpire if we have more female bosses?

There is no shortage of inspirational female role models like Katie Taylor and Derval O’Rourke in sport.  Politically, Angela Merkel seems to be singlehandedly running Europe while FaceBook executive Sheryl Sandberg is the current business flag bearer, urging women to reach their leadership and career potential.  More practically, groups like The Chamber of Commerce and enterprise boards offer courses and mentoring to encourage women of all ages to start up in business.

Perhaps daughters occasionally give us a hard time by being bossy, stroppily insisting on celebrating end of exams, laying down the law and telling us what to do or, better still, what THEY want to do?  If so, be patient – they’re simply honing leadership skills!

Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy!   ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014

Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland 

Contact blog or e-mail or tweet@frazzled_mammy