Balance & Beyond Podcast
#23: Breaking the Chains of Being a Girl: Why Our Biology No Longer Shapes Our Destiny
Do you ever feel guilty, yet you don't know why?
Have you ever wondered why, despite our societal progress, women still wrestle with the guilt of not conforming to traditional roles? Join us as we unravel the invisible threads of societal expectations and generational beliefs that still influence our perceptions. We take you on a riveting journey from the mid-1970s, when a woman needed a man's signature to open a bank account, to the current era, where most families need two incomes to live comfortably. We explore the astounding transformation of women's roles and the long road to equality filled with challenges and victories, like Billie Jean King's stand for equal prize money in tennis and the slow acceptance of women wearing pants in public.
Ladies, we know the road less travelled can be daunting and lonely. That's why we bring you this episode, offering an empathetic perspective on the difficulties ambitious women face today. We guide you through the impact of early-year programming on our subconscious minds and how it shapes our beliefs, affecting our choices and breeding guilt. But don't fret. We’re here to help you shake off these shackles of guilt and find your tribe, people who understand and can help normalise your journey. This episode is not just a history lesson; it's a guide for women striving to balance their lives while fueling this seismic societal shift. So tune in, lean in, and let's rise together!
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INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…
I used to always feel so alone on this path of wanting to work and having a family. I used to wonder, “Was there something wrong with me?” I wanted to have it all, and yet, sometimes it felt like such an elusive dream. And I wondered if it was even possible. It was only when I began to understand what this path that has been paved before me is, and what my really important role in history that I am passing on to the next generation is. If you're listening to this, my guess is you're on this path with me. So, I want to give you some important context that's going to help you understand why things feel like they do, and to help you realize that you are not alone. And then, after I've taken you on a little walk through history, I'm going to share the big shift that I have seen. It makes a difference to how much more connected I can feel on this journey called “life.”
We've all got a shared story as women in this life. And I don't know about you, but I'm a child of the 80s, and we were told in the 80s that we could do anything. It was the era of the working girl. And it was the era of women taking on Wall Street. And all these movies came out about women in heels with briefcases. But, that is only a very small and recent part of our history, which I'll come back to. While we've been brought up to believe we can be anything, it's important to understand that this is only a very, very recent phenomenon.
For generations and millennia, there have been differences depending on what history books you read, between men and women, and particularly when it comes to women and the workforce. If you think and go back just one generation, we couldn't own a bank account. Would you believe it? So, it was only in the mid 1970s in Australia, and around the world, that a woman could open a bank account without needing a male cosigner. And if she was single and unmarried in the mid 1970s, she needed a signature from her father to get a mortgage, or open a bank account, or do any kind of financial arrangement.
Mid 1970s. That's not long before I was born, things were very different financially. Again, in the 1970s, was this really a big era of women. It was in 1973. It's only because Billie Jean King threatened to boycott the US Open, that men and women were ever paid equal prize money for the finals. And would you believe, it took until 2007, for Wimbledon and the French Open to follow.
We've all heard, ad-nauseam, about the gender pay gap. And I don't want to go there. But, it's important to understand that women being seen as on par, and of being of equal worth to men, regardless of how many sets they've played, is a very, very new phenomenon. Even if we go back further than that, it wasn't socially acceptable to even wear pants until the early 1900s. And it was only people like CoCo Chanelle, and some of those early famous designers, that started to normalize women still being feminine, and wearing pants.
Until the 1960s, it was legal to actually refuse to hire a woman, just because she was female. No other reason, nope. And I still remember my mum in the 1960s and 70s, trying to get a job, and she was asked in the interview, “Did she have a boyfriend?” And she was told that if she became pregnant, she'd be fired. So, the implication was, “If you're working, you are a terrible mother.” And you can work, and you can be a secretary, or can be a nurse, you can be in some of those caring professions. You can be a teacher, but the only women's work is sort of part-timey work. It's extra. It's all the nice, carey, soft stuff. All the important work, or the big powerful work, or the well paid work, is done by men.
Now I know the feminist in us starts to rage. But, that was a very, very real reality. And this was the era for most of us, that our parents were brought up in. And my mum was born in 1947. And she didn't really work. She worked a little bit part time here and there. Sort of as secretary of an office administration. But, she was pretty much a stay at home mum. And so that's what was modelled. So, you imagine now where we’ve gone. Within one generation, where the bulk of families, out of something like less than 15% to 20% of women, worked in the 70s.
And now women are generally 50% of the workforce. And the vast majority of women are working in some capacity. Because, this lifestyle that we want to lead now, particularly if you happen to live in an expensive city like Sydney. Here, Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Most families don't have a choice, their lifestyle requires two incomes. So, we've gone from being in this very “1950s housewife” role. You know, high conservative values. And 50 years later, suddenly we are supposedly equal in society. And I say “supposedly” because we all know that unconscious bias runs really deep.
And the reason I share this is to remind you that we have had a seismic shift. Within one generation, our biology no longer shapes our destiny. For hundreds and hundreds of years. If you were a baker's son, you could maybe hope to marry a blacksmith. So, if you were a baker's daughter, maybe you wanted to raise your station by marrying, I don't know, a blacksmith's son. And then, you might be able to raise your station. But there was only so far that you could climb, because society was very hierarchical.
Now all of those limits, all of those ceilings, have been removed. And, thanks to technology, they're being removed even further. However, understanding how seismic this shift has been, is also a really important lesson in how long it takes our unconscious minds, and our biology, to catch up.
We have these two minds. We have a conscious mind, which is our rational, most recent side of our brain. So, our prefrontal cortex, our reasoning. You know, me thinking right now, “I'm going to pick up this pen.” “That's what I'm doing.” That's using my conscious mind. Your subconscious mind is about 95% of your brain's processing power. It's the part of your brain that keeps everything functioning, keeps your food digesting, your liver cleansing. It's, you know, shutting your eyes. It's cleaning your everything. It's all of these bodily functions. But, your subconscious mind is also where the bulk of your beliefs, and your habits, and everything sits.
When we are very, very young, it's important that our conscious mind doesn't actually process everything. Because we have to learn so much, particularly in those first five years of life. We're born helpless. And we have to learn how to feed ourselves. We have to learn to grab something. We have to learn to walk. And if we tried to process everything logically, they say it would take about 25 years for us to learn to feed ourselves. So, we are like these sponges, where there is no filtering, everything just goes straight deep into our subconscious. It's all about all these things that we've got to learn really, really fast.
Think about a baby. From birth, to their first birthday, all the things they've had to master, touching their toes, putting their thumb in their mouth, sucking everything, feeding, you know, starting to walk, dressing themselves, playing, understanding music. There are so many things that our brains have to absorb. However, at the same time as they're absorbing sucking their thumb, and walking, and putting his food in our mouth, they're also noticing, and observing.
“Huh, who does what in the house?” “Who talks to whom?” “What's our family's view of money?” “What's our family's view of gender?” “Who says what things and when?” 95% of our subconscious programming is done by seven. This is why things get passed down. And then your parents then raise you, and pass on their subconscious beliefs to you, and they're in by seven. This is how generational beliefs, and society, often functions. and so, while structurally we've changed things and we are there.
We still have a whole lot of subconscious “gumpf” that we have to deal with. And the way many women have chosen to approach this life, where suddenly, “I want to work.” “I want to have a career.” “I've got ambition, and that is encouraged.” “I can earn good money for that.” “I get to be at the forefront of my generation.” But, I've still got programs that say, “Working makes me a bad mum.” “If I'm ambitious, and I don't want to be with my children all the time, I should feel guilty, because that means I'm a bad mother.” “If my house is not clean and tidy, well then, I'm a bad wife, and I don't keep a good house.”
It's all these deep beliefs that sit in here, that will be running all kinds of behaviours in you. And I know they are there, because I've done the work with myself, and I've done the work with hundreds and hundreds of clients. And, without fail, every single one of them are there. And, even if you happen to be brought up by a mum who worked full time, they are still there. Because, society put them in. It takes a long time for these subconscious beliefs to be worked on.
I call them, “Weeds in your garden to be pulled out.” So that you can now consciously say, “All right, well, my definition of a good mother is one who goes to work, and she buys the cupcakes, because she can afford it.” She doesn't bake them, and she doesn't wear an apron, and she loves her job. And yes, she doesn't see her children as much in terms of quantity of time, but the quality that she has is there.
There is still so much guilt that sits with our generation, particularly those who are mothers, who worry about, “Well, I want to have it all.” “I was told I could have it all.” That was imprinted into my subconscious. But then, I feel like a bad mum, and I'm ambitious, and I'm a people pleaser, and I feel guilty. So, there's all these compensatory behaviours that are running at the same time. And this is why you feel this tension of, “I want to have it all.” “Jo, I want to have it all.” “I believe I can have it all.” But it doesn't feel possible. because you don't have a whole lot of evidence that it is. Most people who have run from this program, who have been successful, the women in the 80s and 90s who were very successful from a career perspective, and are now in their 50s and 60s at senior levels, usually didn't have children.
Well, they had children very young, and then they continued to progress. So, you will usually find those people have grown up children, and they are not rising through the senior ranks with toddlers, because that wasn't done as much in the quantity that it is now. So, that's why their advice often falls flat, and you feel like, “Oh, but they just, they don't get me.” “They've forgotten what it's like to have little kids, and have a sleepless night.” What has happened is those women went into a man's world and, as the absolute trailblazers, the first ones to do it, they had to be one of the bullies. They had to pretend they had something, and they had to swing it in the meeting, because that was what it took to fit in. There were so few of them. So, we have so much to thank them for. For paving the way and being those trailblazers.
But what we saw with those women, and this is where I find I certainly struggled finding role models. Okay, so the women who have made it in corporate, who are really senior, are kind of acting like a man. They've become quite ruthless. They are not supporting other women behind them, because their view was almost, “I climbed over broken glass to get here.” “So, you're going to have to do the same.” “I had to earn my stripes.” “You have to do the same thing.” And I usually found early on in my career, it was actually women who were less supportive than the men, because they wanted me to suffer like they had. They earned their stripes. I should have to earn it too. They're not going to make it any easier for me to climb. So, that's the role model that we've typically got. Now, of course, there are exceptions to this rule. But, this is what these women had to believe about themselves, and what they had to do in order to be successful.
So, the moral model is either a childless woman who chose not to go down that path. Very often she's divorced, so she's a single woman. Very successful, tons of money, fabulous clothes, looks amazing, but doesn't really have a personal life. Or we have the women who worked part time, and didn't really progress, and that was that. That often is the choice. “All right, so I completely sacrificed my family, and have nannies to raise them, and I don't really see my partner, and I can progress.” Or, “I need to take a part time job that doesn't really have much progression, if I'm going to work and still be a mother.” There are two choices. And I looked at that path and went, “I don't want either of those.” ‘I want both.” “I want the career.” “I want the progression.” “But, I also want to be a present mother who is here.”
So this is where we are now. We are the ones charting a new course. We are the ones who want to have it all. But we want to redefine all, because those who came before us defined it in a different way. We are now saying, “I'm going to have the abundance of the new car, and I can afford a nanny if I want, but sometimes I don't want that.” “I'm going to outsource the cupcakes.” “I'm going to have the cleaner.” “I don't really care how my house looks.” “I might have the nice house, but I'm going to get a gardener in, to mow the lawns, because I don't have time to do that. Because I'm more selective in how I use my time.
But that takes a different set of beliefs. In order to feel successful, and the missing ingredient that I have found as trailblazers at the forefront of this seismic once in a multi-generational shift, is you have to have other women beside you who are also on this path. Because you will find that many of your friends will still fall into two of those categories that have been left before us.
I remember when I had my eldest, I was in a mother's group, and there were some lawyers and amazing people there who had these big careers. I said, “Oh no, I'm going to work part-time, and I'm not going to progress.” And I knew lawyers who ended up taking sort of almost paralegal, or much more junior jobs, working nine to three. I remember saying to them, “Is that what you want?” “Like, I'm not here to judge you, but do you want that?” “But you worked really hard.” And they said, “Well, yeah, I loved being a lawyer, but I didn't have an option.” “I don't want to work 80 hours a week, and this is the only choice.”
So many around you have not had the skills, have not had the support to say, “I'm going to do it differently.” “I'm going to find a new course.” “I'm going to find a new pathway.” And, yeah, sure, it can be bruising at the front. It's not easy. But this is why, on this journey to wanting to have it all, on this journey to wanting to define what that means for you, you must find others. You have to find your tribe. You have to find your people who share insight, who share wisdom, who say, “Hey, I did this, try this.” “Did you know?” This is this thing that's available. “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” We are tribal creatures, and we've lost that village that we used to have to raise our children. And COVID ripped a lot of that support away from many of us, and we forgot how to be with other people. Especially in person.
And, to be honest, not having many others on this path beside me is why I started my business. Because, on the one hand, I had one good friend who I would chat to about, “Oh, I can't get to my gym, and across the line on this thing.” “And what can I do with this 65-year-old man?” “And I need to influence him.” And in the next breath, like, “Oh, I can't get this thing off the bathroom, what's going on?” Or, “I'm renovating.” “What should I do with my new splashback?”
And to be able to navigate these two worlds, of switching in one conversation to, “Oh, I've just got a $10 million budget approved!” “What I need is to hire these four people, where should I get them?” And having somebody else who can go, “Yeah, that's a great idea!” And then talk about, “All right, well, this other thing I've learned about sleep.” Or “This thing I'm doing for my body …” You need to have others who get you.
And one of the greatest joys of my business has been finding other women who were, like moths to a flame, “Oh my gosh, you get me!” “Oh my gosh, you understand what this is like!” Because it can feel very, very lonely if you don't have your people beside you. And hopefully now, understanding the depth, or almost the shallowness of our history, of our role here, of this seismic shift that we are an absolute part of, you must find your people. You must find others who are going to normalise what you're doing, who are going to tell you that, “You're not broken.” That you're not doing this wrong.
And that's for those people who choose to book in discovery sessions with me, who are looking for help. One of the greatest gifts that I can give them is to remind them that they're not alone. And there are very often tears on those calls, because they burst into tears at the end and they say, “Oh Jo, you've just made me feel so much better.” “I thought I was doing it wrong.” “I thought I was stupid, because I couldn't work this out, and it felt so hard, and nobody else understands me, and everyone else is telling me to step back, and I don't want to.”
And in me, in this tribe that I've built, they get validation that, “Oh, you mean, I can have my career, and I can have a family, and I can have energy, and I can be present?” Well, yeah, you can, but you've got to find your people. You've got to find the right tools to help you do it. Because, there are not lots of people out there who have figured this out. Because, there are not lots of us on this path. This is why I'm so blessed to have found my calling. Because it's this beautiful confluence of me being on this path, and lining up with the skill set that I had in corporate, which was pulling things apart, understanding them, and putting them back together again.
And what I've been able to do is say, “All right, well, I seem to be going okay on this journey.” “I'm not burning out.” “I almost did, and I successfully had a great career.” “I'm now growing a business that's growing exponentially.” “Okay, well, what can I share with others?” “I don't want to stomp on everybody behind me.” I'm about to bring everybody up and say, “All right, guys, the more people that are here beside me, the more people who are going to change corporate, the more mothers who are going to raise children differently.” Otherwise, we're going to be putting the same subconscious programs about, “You have to work like you don't have children, and you have to be a parent like you don't work.” We're putting them into our kids. And I don't know about you, but I've got two girls. I want them to believe they can do anything, and not feel like there's a handbrake on that. That's my gift. I want everybody to know that this is possible.
But it's so important that you understand your important role in history. That you understand the size of the challenge, and it is not one that we are going to shy away from. It is, of course, one that we are going to nail, because that's just who we are. But, you've got to understand where it's come from. You've got to understand what is going on in that subconscious of yours and when it feels like there's handbrakes on. That's what that is. That is your recognition that you are part of something special. You are part of a once in a generational shift, and it's a journey that you get to go on. But it is not one you can do alone.
So today I encourage you to reflect on what your upbringing was. What were you told was normal? About life? About women? How does this make you reflect on your journey? And I hope this has given you a piece of inspiration that lets you go and find your people. Come and find us. Find a girlfriend, find a mum at the school gate, find your people, and learn from each other. Because together, as I say, we will all rise.
OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at www.balanceinstitute.com to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.
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