News Maeve Dineen

Friday 29 August 2014

Parlon's wrong - a baby doesn't have to mean Lucinda's finished

Maeve Dineen

Published 20/01/2014 | 02:30

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Tom Parlon was busy reinforcing the glass ceiling in Dail Eireann over the weekend. Not content with the strength of the current glazing, Mr Parlon singled-handedly welded on a galvanised roof when he openly questioned Lucinda Creighton's ambitions now that she is pregnant with her first child.

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"Look," he said, "It's widely known she is pregnant and she is newly married and she might think 'I gave it my best shot' -- whatever, but life has to go on."

Lucinda may not have been offended, but that doesn't stop the rest of us working mothers being insulted on her behalf.

On first read, I couldn't decide if I was more annoyed with the fact that he thinks Lucinda has lost all interest in furthering her career because she is pregnant or because she is newly married

Just where in the marriage vows does it say: "And from this day forward, do you solemnly swear to give up personal drive and ambition, forgo any work promotions, and concentrate solely on keeping the floors clean and getting the texture of the royal icing just right?"

Of course, contrary to what Tom believes, Lucinda could just as easily be thinking: "I'm 33, lucky enough to be pregnant with my first child. I have a supportive husband and family. I have never been more committed to my political career. And this may very well be my breakthrough year -- with baby in tow."

One might not agree with some of her policies but like her or loathe her, Lucinda is an impressive operator.

She has made her way amid the flotsam of middle-aged, largely male politicians, and she is a breath of fresh air, outspoken and not afraid to speak her mind.

No one who has children will deny that Lucinda's life is going to change once she becomes a mother. In fact, she has no idea what is going to hit her.

There will be sleepless nights, endless crying, colic, rashes, teething and tantrums and that's just at the start.

The strain of trying to balance a political career with motherhood is one of the main reasons why female representation in the Dail is so low.

Currently, there are only 25 women in Dail Eireann, accounting for 15pc of all seats. The numbers for Seanad Eireann are marginally better where 18 of the 60 senators (30pc of the seats) are women.

But it's not impossible, and comments like those of Tom Parlon do nothing to encourage young women who are considering entering politics.

The truth is, in the midst of the bottles of Calpol, Lucinda can, once she has a good support network, go on and realise her political ambitions.

And that's the key -- a good support network.

What Lucinda will quickly learn is that she will find it much easier to chase her political dreams once her husband Paul Bradford supports her and she has network of child minding help around her.

Most research on the women who do finally make it to the top usually point to a supportive spouse being a critical factor in their success.

Some research even goes as far as saying the biggest reason that women don't become CEOs or world leaders is because they have made the common error of marrying an alpha man.

Apparently an alpha male and an alpha female does not lead to a successful career for the woman. A quick look at some of the world's top 50 business women will confirm this.

By and large, most of them have husbands who have been prepared to sacrifice their careers in order to aid the glorious ascent of their wives.

There are three pretty obvious reasons an alpha husband is a problem for the aspiring female CEOs.

First is logistics. If you want to be really successful, you need your husband to be flexible. You also need to have someone who is prepared to take a very hands-on role in rearing the children. But above all, you need support. If you have spent all day competing with men at work, you don't want to go on competing at home.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi and the world's most powerful businesswoman, is married to a man who quit his job and became a consultant to fit in with his wife and children.

The husband of Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft Foods decided to be self-employed 20 years ago to help her. And Xerox's Lloyd Bean, whose wife Ursula Burns also worked there, left his job and was thrilled when his wife stormed ahead of him up the corporate ladder.

Paul Bradford may very well turn out to be one of these men.

We don't know. But what we do know is that Tom Parlon certainly isn't.

Irish Independent

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