working women

I'm reading Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead right now. I don't understand why it's been so contentious - I have found it empowering, interesting and full of practical information - for both men and women. Or have I?

Women in business, and in general, have been playing on my mind a lot. I've found these articles interesting to read and think about. 

Moving from being freelance to working in an agency again has been challenging, interesting and brain stretching. I like it, and I'm happy. It's not without scary moments though - and it's nice to have the support of some amazing women as I navigate it all. Here's the best email I've ever received, edited for brevity. I suggest you print it out if you ever have stressful moments at work, and I also suggest you read Lean In.

"You can do this, and you know you can. Do it your way. Not the way you think others do it. The Nat way. The new way, the new generation way."

"You can run a meeting, it's just like running a dinner party. It's you putting the meal out and checking the oven and telling someone to pass something and running the dialogue and chat. You can do this in a meeting easy easy easy! Always — common respect and always walk in with shoulders back and always sit up straight."

"You have been running people and ideas and being beyond the trend and setting trends and business adventures for ever. You know how to do this with your eyes closed, you are forging forward to surpass everybody, to get what you want and how you want it in your own elegant, classy way and with this commanding respect as you do it."

"Laugh. At the end of the day, who cares if you miss an interview, balls up a figure, creative idea, who really cares. No one when you look back in four months, no one. And when you need advice and don't know, just say, I am not sure about this - what would you do? We are never meant to know everything, most things, yes, but not everything."

"Some weekends, work all weekend to catch up. It will make the week less stressy and you'll feel better. There will always be parties, and always be brunches. Sometimes, one weekend smashing it out is all you need to get up to date."

"Keep thinking of where you want to be - seniority and success gives you freedom and no one can buy that. Be creative, be driven and keep free and smiling."

"We are not girls PEOPLE that are going to sit in suburbs and moan our life away. We are going to sit in beautiful houses with beautiful husbands and fly round the world making people feel, making money while we do it, wearing Lanvin and Celine and Dries and Levis, with sweet, sweet art on the wall, a beautiful man by our side, beautiful friends, creative people, parties, beautiful kids, all running around in some crazy chaos."

"We might wonder why we do it, but we know why. We just can't not! It's what we're destined to do."

"And if all the above doesn't help instantly, I often find going into the bathroom, locking the door, taking deep breaths..and then walking out feeling better often helps. Call it the brown paper bag moment."

Thank you T x

To summarise, if you're not doing something that scares you, you're probably not doing something you love.


  1. I love that last quote.. Thanks for sharing! xx

  2. Such wonderful advise in that e-mail, and it's just so true. From time to time I'll see people I've known in past lives whose lives seem so much easier because they've chosen more traditional paths and I question why I do what I do, and choose to live where I've chosen to live. But like it says above, because I just couldn't do otherwise - I'd never be happy.

    What also makes me feel better in stressful times is this: there are tons of women out there trying to make it all work. It's crazy hard, especially when you're doing something in a creative industry, but you know what - we're all in it together and we have to keep remembering that.

    Great post!

  3. Yes those moaning suburban women who don't wear designer clothes and whose husbands, houses and children are ugly, who have no money and no means to travel round the world, whose friends are not creative OR beautiful are just such a bore. Wouldn't be them for quids. Luckily we are better than them eh?

    1. I don't think that was quite what I was saying, or at least not intending to. I'm sorry if you've misconstrued my post, which like any post on a personal blog is a personal, small thought - not a wide ranging essay that's meant to cover off the entire world. I have lots of different friends, who do all sorts of different things - mothers, women who work in charity, who choose not to work at all, to have money or not, wear designer clothes or not, be creative or not. I'm not saying I or anyone else (or their decisions) are better than anyone else - I'm just saying that for me, at this present moment in time, success looks like working in a career that I find challenging, and financial success is one of those measures for me. I'm sure that will change and evolve. And I am extremely well aware that I am white, middle class and have the privilege of both education and being born in a country where life is comparatively easy. Perhaps not submitting Anonymous comments and engaging in a more open and intelligent conversation might be more valuable than spitting out snarky comments.

    2. But also, Anonymous, you're right - I don't aspire to move to the suburbs or stop working or have an ugly baby. And yes, I strive to have all those beautiful material things. But that doesn't mean I judge others for not having or wanting them, nor do I think I am better than them - just different.

    3. I don't think that I've misconstrued your post Natalie, and there's nothing wrong with your material and social aspirations, they are mine too, really. It's just that by pitting the measures of a certain kind of (upper) middle-class creative success against "moaning suburban girls", thus inherently debasing their values and aesthetic identities (whether you meant to or not) sounded so self-congratulatory and elitist I felt some snark was necessary. In the context of feminist debate about women's role in personal and professional life, that little phrase seemed especially off-colour.

    4. I think Anon makes a very worth point. I too share the same aspirations, but there is no small amount of white privilege masquerading as feminist empowerment here.

      'Moaning suburban girls' does imply that they're discontent in their menial lives, and that you've succeeding where they have not.

      I know that they aren't your words, but sharing them as "the best email you've ever received" in this particular context, did strike a sour chord with me too.

    5. Not every thought can be a politically correct, perfectly formed and inoffensive one.
      That post had a simple intention - to share a 'kick up the ass' email I received when feeling a bit nervous at work. I wasn't intending to encompass the entirety of female experience. Funnily enough, the woman who sent me this is neither white, nor from a privileged upbringing. A simple edit, from 'girls' to 'people' makes a difference, perhaps.

  4. But I also think it applies to men too who want to be as creatively successful as their equal opposites. It's such a myth - only in Australian media today - that men don't have female heroes or mentors. All of mine are largely female, and the ones that are male are ones who have come from cinematography or sport. David Lynch is just as beautiful as Elsa Schiaparelli. Or jumping from Sontag to editors like Penny (Martin) and Sally (Singer).

    1. Hi Mike!
      Nice to hear from you, it's been a while and I hope you are well!
      And, I agree - another important point and one that I feel very strongly about. The idea of delineating according to gender is self-perpetuating the very issue, isn't it. I look forward to a day when these lines are no longer necessary in our minds.

  5. Such a good post, and I sure need that encouraging email right now. Thank you!

  6. That is such an inspirational email, something I'm going to remember. I got that it was also an intentionally aspirational email too, something not to be taken too literally, and with aspirational things comes not wanting to be anything less than what you aspire towards, and for me that is - a job I love and am good at, beautiful material posessions, love and feeling comfortable, being always inspired by life around me.

  7. Organising and running a meeting like it's a dinner party is an excellent piece of advice that I'm going to take with me. Funny how for some people, the same advice but vice versa could be just as effective.

  8. "We are never meant to know everything, most things, yes, but not everything."

    So great.

  9. i luv your blog, words have meaning and reason to be said here. u give somewhat solutions and help in an Z generation and graceful yet realistic way.