As one of only a handful of female directors in a male-top-heavy company, I notice every time you get treated differently. I know not having a parking space when the male directors do frustrates you. I know you have to fight harder to be heard. I know you work to find the best in everyone.
I can imagine what obstacles you’ve overcome in your career. You’ve raised a family while rising to the top of your game. I know you make a point of putting your family first and making sure everyone who works with you does the same.
You always seem surprised when great things come your way, never recognising that you earned them several times over
What I don’t know is how the hell you do it. How do you remain so polite, so kind, so thoughtful and yet so firm? How have you remained optimistic in the face of sexism? How do you keep your calm in the face of obvious unfairness?
And how do you manage to avoid being pigeonholed – either as a ruthless businesswoman, or a mother? How are you kind to everyone without being seen as soft or emotional? How do you tread the line so gracefully?
Here’s something you don’t know: I am both proud and terribly envious of you. Despite being 30 years younger and “charming”, as people say, I’d swap places with you in a heartbeat.
One day, I’ll be your age and I’ll be invisible. I know that being young and charming won’t last. What you have is valuable: you are intelligent and respected. I’m in awe of the way that you deal with such a fair hand, the way you give people your time and attention so freely and yet manage to be so efficient. You make me wonder why society ignores and disdains older women; I’ve rarely met such a powerhouse.
I remember when we first met. I saw the steel and yet the softness in you. I saw that you noticed everything, took it all in, yet remained warm and kind and in control. I’ve sat in countless meetings with you since then and watched you sit back and allow others to speak. You never dominate, but are always centre of the room.
I’ve seen you insist on credit being given fairly, on praise going exactly to where it’s due, on ideas being traced back to their rightful originators. I’ve watched you champion other people’s projects and make sure their work gets acknowledged. You have achieved so much and yet you put your ego aside to make way for others. You always seem surprised when great things come your way, never recognising that you earned them several times over.
You’re a great role model. I can never thank you enough for the support and respect you’ve shown can be possible between colleagues.
I don’t know if you look in the mirror and worry or care about your age. I don’t know if you can rationalise away the pressure of society telling women their worth is determined by their youth. I know that when I look at you, it gives me hope that one day people will see me in the same way as I see you – a person who’s bloomed with age, in defiance of society’s definition of a woman and her worth.