On October 20th 2003 my dear friend Jane passed away after battling breast cancer for eight months. She had struggled with her weight since childhood, but the chemotherapy had left her emaciated. She joked that once she got out of hospital, she would ensure that the weight does not pile on again. That was not to be. she passed on that very night.

As the investment group chairlady, I was tasked with the responsibility of informing the rest of the women in our group. One particular reaction from a group member stood out. Her name is Eva. She is married and a mother of three children.  She lived in a distant city and had not had an opportunity to say her goodbye to our friend Jane. She was shocked and she let out a moaning cry. As she composed herself she said and I quote: “At least Jane had a good support system. Imagine if this had happened to me, my children would immediately be taken to live in the countryside, with relatives they don’t know. They would be forced to adjust to the countryside life and learn to speak their mother tongue. It would be a tough life. But for Jane, she is lucky. She lives in her own house surrounded by loving neighbours who are also her relatives”.

You see, Jane’s father-in-law owned  a 5 acres piece of land which he had subdivided into half-acre plots for each of his 5 children and himself. This arrangement had turned into a small family gated community estate where the kids were free to play and visit each other. If one home lacked a house-help, then the kids would be sent to their cousin’s house to stay there. They were one big happy family.

Today I want to address a very thorny issue. I have put on my helmet for protection so feel free to throw stones at me, but I feel this must be said. Please raise your hand if you were born in the 70s… am sure you lived with a relative or two? I thought so. Our mothers’ generation were the women who broke into the employment world. But on the home front, they welcomed their mothers, sisters and cousins to live with them. This was in addition to the house help. It provided a support system for our mothers to pursue their work and personal dreams. They had a mental comfort that even if the house girl misbehaved, her sister would keep  an eye on her children. This is no longer the case, what happened? Women became more educated and dismantled their support structures. We have a love-hate relationship with our in-laws and siblings.  Even though our incomes have improved, we love our relatives at a distance. Most families in the cities are strictly nuclear families.

In one of the largest economy in the world, China, children are brought up by their grandparents. Babies don’t pose a problem to their mother’s careers. According to www.lovelovechina.com,  it is a widespread practice that when a young Chinese mother gives birth, all childrearing responsibilities are transferred to grandparents. Soon she can return to work and help support the household financially.

Could this be the secret to China’s economic success? Time magazine reports that China is among the countries with the highest proportions of women with corporate senior roles. Women comprise 30 percent of senior management positions, which is higher than the global average (24 percent).

A look closer home in Kenya, we find that every community that has pulled its strength together, wins together whether it is the Indian or Somali Community. Remember tower of Babel found in Genesis 11:6.  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this (building the tower), then NOTHING they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

I challenge you today. Look around you. Who can you loop in for your social support system? Who can sit in the front row of your concert and cheer you on?  Could it be your in-laws, sisters, mother or cousins? Identify and surround yourself with people who will be your pillar in the home circles so as to forge stronger in your career and business circle.

See you at the top!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beatrice is passionate about Women in Leadership. She believes that achieving an equal female leadership voice is vitally important to serving clients, community and to the growth of the company.

As a senior manager in one of the leading multinationals in manufacturing sector, she leads the efforts in retaining, motivating and developing women across the various sites in her company. She loves helping women make their current roles fit their unique needs – weather is transferring to a different geography, focusing on an industry or utilizing work opportunities to truly shape the career that is right for them with the flexibility to change it as their needs evolve over time.

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