By Giulia Spingardi
I am a newly recruited consultant, working for Accenture, a global consulting firm. I am 23 years old, and originate from Italy although now I live in London. I am writing today because I wanted to share with Nina readers how important my strong and supportive home environment has been in terms of my personal development – helping me get to where I am today!
My parents were (and still are) great role models for me, embodying love as well as a strong work ethic. They have shown me by practical demonstration how to work hard, making sure that tasks are carried out and problems resolved to the very best of one’s ability. As I enter a new job and face new struggles, these lessons I have learned are indeed very apt – and I imagine that it will continue to a baseline for me as I meet future challenges also.
Rigour, determination and organisation have always been the three key pillars for me when taking any work or non-work related task, although energy and enthusiasm are also important of course. When I was a child, my father would show me how important dedication to living a full life is, both in terms of work and family. Despite often working every day of the week (and from 7am to 12am!) he would engage in fun games in the park with us on his free days. I even came to appreciate him helping with our Maths homework. My mother on the other hand, a rock to the family, gave up a professional job to support our lives and development; still to my mind though bringing her working skills to bear by getting involved in responsibilities and activities at our schools as well as parenting. My parents always made sure that despite work commitments, there was room for family time. A lesson I have truly taken to heart.
My mother’s example also showed me the importance of taking the job of childrearing and homemaking seriously. This is a task that should be respected, something that is increasingly rare in our Western society. Women in the home demonstrate leadership. Looking back, the fact that my brothers and I were treated equally – always with the aim of helping us reach our full potential, was so important. The supportive environment our parents created gave me the confidence to take on many new activities. Sports, art culture and learning new languages were part of my day to day living and learning experiences. Practicality is also important though, and this was catered for too as I was encouraged to join the working world as soon as I could. At the age of 16, I began babysitting neighbour’s children and tutoring other girls at school in Maths. This empowered me as I became more independent and realised that I could teach and positively affect other people.
Something I am still very proud of is the fact that I started up a company age just 17, with five school friends of mine. Our strong support network at school and at home made this possible and allowed us to learn certain business skills that still now can be applied to the running of any small business. Engaging with these business fundamentals at this age taught us the importance of making sure there is sufficient demand for the goods the business sells and the consequence of not realising this. As we went to an all-girls school, we thought it would be a good idea to sell accessories. It was a great success! We started off with big bows to clip into our hair, customised socks and cute charm bracelets and then slowly moved onto other accessories as our popularity and sales grew. My family supported me, encouraging me to take on the required responsibilities with an approach that included humour and practicality.
Something else I want to flag up is how important it is for children to learn to make mistakes and then recover from them. I think this holds especially true for girls, as we start to feel responsible for others at an early age. By making mistakes and living through the consequences, we can learn to bounce back even stronger. From personal experience (a girl, perfectionist and someone who feels highly responsible for everything I do at an emotional and work level!), it would have been very easy to shy away from taking on certain activities for fear of making mistakes. Thanks to my parents’ approach though (encouraging me to grasp opportunities and learn from mistakes intelligently), I learned that I just needed to ‘go for it’.
So, all in all, a supportive home environment is crucial for those of us young women looking to take up responsibilities outside the home. Often it is in very male dominated environments when the confidence and skills learned in a positive home environment are particularly beneficial. Strong parental support gives daughters the confidence to reach out and face reality and so gain independence. Knowing that there is a comfort zone to come back to, allows us to move beyond ourselves in a professional environment. In order to be leaders outside the home, women must learn leadership skills in the home, these can be best taught by a mother (no matter whether she is a full time homemaker or combines a career with home) who understands the importance of her role and is confident in passing her values and aspirations on to her children and a father who agrees!