The Motherhood MBA

c_figueres_v3_biggerI’ve been seized with writer’s block since last summer. But I just have to share this because I was thrilled to read it.

This week’s New Scientist has an interview with Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She has the extraordinary task of getting 194 governments to sign a deal in Paris in December next year. This will be a global treaty that sets how we, humanity, are going to get to carbon-neutrality by the second half of the century.

The much-criticised and effective collapse of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 demonstrate how extraordinarily difficult it is to achieve alignment on global issues. What makes Ms Figueres’ task even more challenging is that the global treaty under negotiation “is the basis for a global transformation the likes of which the world has never seen”.

Describing her job as ‘one of the most intractable on the planet’, the New Scientist’s reporter asked ‘where do you even begin?’, to which Ms Figueres replied [italics added]:

“Well, first, you can’t get overwhelmed by it. It’s a matter of setting the stage for conversations to occur, building confidence recognizing progress and continually setting the next milestone. It’s not much different to having children. You can rear them in an antagonistic environment or in a facilitative one with a good combination of love and discipline. It’s about supporting them, and recognizing achievements and contributions, but also saying, “that’s fantastic but it’s not enough, here’s the next thing”. Honestly, what was my best training for this job? Being a mother.”

It’s so true. I worked long hours on a professional career but I always knew, and I hope I showed it, that my wife had an incomparably more difficult and challenging time in the career which she chose, as full-time carer for our three sons until the youngest went to school.  Fathers matter enormously too but mothers do have unique capacities.

Consultation is the only way we can deal effectively with all the challenges bearing down upon humankind – wars, resource shortages, inequality, climate change – and it’s where women’s natural capacities in communication, empathy and nurture come to the fore.

The supreme MBA – from the true alma mater (in it’s original sense of ‘nourishing mother’) – is in Motherhood.