Yes, I admit that I am guilty. Guilty of a few things and now I realise that I have a particular unconscious bias.

My awareness of this bias has recently unfolded whilst reading my fifth book. And I am in shock as I pride myself as being immersed in all new world behaviours, practices and activities.

What about you. Are you guilty?

Try this 10 second test: If you see a man with his baby in a pram in a café, with no other adult, what’s your immediate thought/reaction/assumption?

What’s your answer?

My immediate assumption was: Oh! How lucky is that woman to have a partner who takes their child out for an hour to give her a break.

After delving into Annabel Crabb’s book, The Wife Drought, I feel as if I’ve been slapped in the face and put in my place: I was expecting to have a good laugh, given my fan following of her ABC and iView productions; and whilst there was a good dusting of humour, I was surprised with the volume of common sense and clarity about the wives and lives of men and women over the past decades.

 This week's book review.

This week's book review.

I immersed into reflection, pondering leadership, leaders and their authority and realise that too many businesses are still stuck in the 50s. Few admit that they have a workforce which has constructed systems supporting men and women and in particular their families (think children & grandparents/seniors).

The drought in question is the support which women don’t receive when they are in the office or at home. We wives tend to unconsciously take on the roles of: meals, social arrangements, nursing sick kids, child arrangements if travelling, house cleaning etc.

I blame many men!

OK, I’ve said it. I don’t think I’ve met many men (straight men) who get it. A few who don’t behave badly (consciously) and realise that women aren’t just looking for equality, they expect a fair go in this modern world which can actually cater for it.

Sadly some blame lies with us women too. Being a member of an average Australian family, I often unconsciously take on the housewife role; regardless of running my own business and working around two kids; I frequently allow or I suppose even encourage my husband to behave that he has a housewife*.

Who needs to read and make sense of The Wife Drought?

Leaders, Human Resource/People Focused folk, Business owners and anyone who is responsible for men and women.

You will want to read this book to heighten your awareness of your possible unconscious bias – which is preventing more women filling the seats which too many men occupy.

This book isn’t a man bashing read, however it alerts us to the root cause and symptoms which then identify the solution: we need more men to join by supporting women, changing their approach, being a “wife” too and normalising the fact that men and women need to work at this problem.

So, what do we need to do?

·        Like the Norwegians, whose government policies are focused on family and health (and it appears happiness), we need to change the attitude so in our workspace that being ‘busy’ doesn’t equate to effectiveness and success.

·        So many Australians are still conditioned to thinking that men work and women care– we’re still following Dorothy Carnegie’s manual on being a good housewife – a shift in mindsets is required and leaders need to role-model and talk about the necessary change.

·        We know women can perform effectively in these roles, however leadership hasn’t been activated to make necessary changes including support, understanding and role modelling to make it easier, not an uphill journey. 

·        We still worry about untested assumptions, inhibiting our desire to do what we want –it’s still a juggle and a struggle – let’s talk loudly and get some businesses to show us how it can be done.

·        And women, take off those aprons and have a good talk to those husbands – set some new standards and agreements on how you want life to operate.

·        Finally, for those of you who are doing the right things, please share. Let others know and provide feedback to those in your industry who don’t.

I’m concerned that we still have some mindsets which are stuck in the ‘50s – women need to keep an eye on the pork chops rather than be in the workplace. We need to reframe our thinking, role model what we expect, bust assumptions and experiment with new practices.

We've moved on from this scene!

On a side note, The Wife Drought is my current Book Club read. We’ll be guzzling our champagne and munching on canapes whilst we pull this book apart. One third of our group are wives/mothers, one third are wives and one third are motherless/partnerless women. There hasn’t been a murmur in our Facebook page about the book – I’m eager to hear how the book was absorbed by the other two groups of women – do they experience the drought too?

*Sorry Honey - if you read this … you’re an exception – you do far more than most men I know. You’d be out the door if you didn’t!!!!

Let's connect to work on those assumptions and attitudes and focus on the leadership necessary to make your workplace one which people talk about being focused on what's important.

I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learnings and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!