Realism preferable to perpetuating “superwoman” stereotypes

Young women can be left with false expectations and many older women find it daunting, when faced with a bevy of seemingly ultra-capable superwomen, most of whom steer well clear of mentioning any kind of fallibility (mistakes, and what they aren’t good at).

So Alexandra Gartmann’s talk at this week’s QRRRWN* Conference was a breath of fresh air. Fantastic positivity but mixed with healthy dose of excellent advice:

“When it gets tough, you are allowed to get frustrated.

You are allowed to take offence at criticism.

You are allowed to cry.

…So long as something positive comes out of it.”


“Know your strengths. You only need to be good at one thing.”

Westpac’s CEO Gail Kelly also had a refreshingly frank interview with the Australian Financial Review last week, explaining a false start into a teaching career and doubts about her ability. Well worth a read.

Pollyanna-ism isn’t helpful; it just sets people up for eventual disappointment and disillusionment.

If women choose to follow more than one path (eg career plus family), then compromises are unavoidable.

The sooner this message genuinely replaces the ‘superwoman’ myth, the better for society.

I have concerns about some of the youth in ag/rural awards; because rewarding someone early on isn’t necessarily character building, and can lead to burnout. As seen on social media, where some who’ve started full of zeal and high expectations, end up so disappointed they walk away completely.  With more realistic advice given at the start, their energy might have been better spent and sustained them long-term.  The cult of ‘positivity’ does a lot of damage.

And a surprisingly conventional idea of what leadership is, remains. It would be good to see more creativity applied. There’s many different ways of being a leader – you don’t have to be President or CEO of an organisation, to be a leader.

There’s one thing likely to always be the case. For most people, long term (sound) achievement means there’s no escaping having to put in the hard yards over a number of years.


*QRRRWN – Queensland Rural, Regional & Remote Women’s Network.