A new book based on two years research of more than 50 high achieving women is exploring the hidden codes holding women back and how they can be re-written.
Thirroul author Danielle Dobson's 'Breaking the Gender Code' explores the pressures facing women and how myths around perfectionism and having-it-all are acting as barriers to success.
Ms Dobson comes from a high-achieving finance career that saw her work in many parts of the world. She is a mother of three children and when her marriage broke down she set about creating a new way of life for herself and her family.
She said everyone has what they need within them. And by resetting their code, they can create a life which fits their core values, resources and priorities, rather than striving for someone else's version of success.
She said women who are lead parents and also leaders at work bring invaluable skills to the table, and are highly effective.
Prior to writing the book Ms Dobson conducted her own research project called 'The Wonders of Women in Leadership' where she interviewed high-achieving women to identify the common factors that help them juggle a career and family.
She identified that women are often held back in their lives and at work, by a hidden gender code. And thinks her new book will be timely during COVID-19 as many people re-examine their priorities and take a fresh look at their lives.
'Breaking the Gender Code' includes anecdotes and practical tips on how women can create the lives they want using what they already have. It explores the pressures faced by women, and provides tools for rewriting a code for life, based on personal values, resources and priorities.
During a recent Illawarra Women in Business lunch at M2 Kitchen Ms Dobson said "from a very young age, women are programmed to behave a certain way, and praised for fitting into a standard mould".
"From the games girls are encouraged to play, to the behaviours being modelled to them, we're perpetuating the myth that women are genetically coded to be nurturing carers, while men are out killing the mammoth.
"But if you go back far enough in history you'll find the divisions between the roles of men and women weren't as clear-cut as we've been led to believe, and we're more similar than we are different."
Mr Dobson said she knows what it is like to be a busy working mum and remembers questioning what was achievable in the balance between work, life and family.
When her marriage broke down she began a process of re-evaluatiion.
"Women seem to be feeling trapped in a myth, believing they should aspire to have it all, and depleting themselves in the process," she said.
"They're so conflicted between working and parenting that they're overstretched, and feel judgment, shame and guilt as a result.
"Sadly, one of the most common themes through the research I conducted was that women who looked like 'Wonder Woman' on the outside, really didn't see themselves as worthy of the title.
"They find it much easier to see the brilliance in others than in themselves."
Breaking The Gender Code is focused on women who lead in their careers, and are also the lead parents in their families.
It looks at the shared skills between leadership and parenting, and why mothers bring invaluable skills to the table in positions of leadership at work.
"Corporate hierarchies have been designed with men in mind. They aren't set-up as places where women can thrive, so we're working twice as hard to achieve at work, while also taking on the pressures of everything outside of work to help our families flourish," Ms Dobson said.
"But as women and mothers, we bring amazing skills to the corporate world, which organisations stand to benefit from if women are given access to the pathways to success.
"Throughout the book, you'll find practical ways to release daily pressures, and workable tips on how to create your own code for living, which is shared by those around you as a common mission for success.
"Each of us has a unique context, and we need to create our own personal code based on our own strengths, resources, and realistic time and energy capacity."
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