International Women’s Day
Today, on International Woman’s Day (IWD), I reflect on my own life and journey as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend and as a professional. I reflect on the progress we have made and the barriers we still must overcome to achieve gender parity in all facets of life. I reflect on the future I want for my children and the confidence I want to instill in them to actually play a role in creating a world in which my daughter will be bold and pursue her dreams and in which my son will recognize that he too will have a critical role to play in creating a culture where gender parity is the norm.
When we talk about gender equity, there is too much of a divide in the conversation between women and men. We will not create a culture of inclusion and equity without men; IWD is not just a celebration and recognition of women, it’s a celebration of the women and men forging a path forward together to shift mindsets and change our culture. Both women AND men must “press for progress” to elicit change. In Joanne Lipman’s new book, “That’s What She Said,” she states that “If women only talk among ourselves, we can only solve 50 percent of the problem. We need men to join the conversation, to be our partners.”
For me both personally and professionally, there is no greater cause around which I am convicted and care than that of gender parity and the development/advancement of women and girls. As a working mother, my own journey navigating my career and motherhood opened the door to discovering my own voice and confidence, and working to build platforms for other women to do the same. Yet despite some progress that has been made, it just isn’t happening fast enough. The latest stats on the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500, women on boards, the wage gap and policies like parental leave and back-up childcare demonstrate that we are far from closing the gender gap.
- 1 in 5 C-Suite Positions are held by Women. (https://womenintheworkplace.com)
- The US is one of only three countries left in the world that do not guarantee paid maternity leave.
- Not only have women’s salaries been repeatedly proven to be lower in nearly every industry, but female-dominated fields are often financially valued less than male-dominated fields, regardless of whether the skills and education levels necessary for jobs in said fields are equal. (https://www.bustle.com/p/8-wage-gap-statistics-to-shut-down-any-haters-48441)
- The average cost of enrolling a child age 4 or younger full-time at a child care center in America is $9,589 a year, which is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition. http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/09/28/cost_of_child_care_in_america_still_outrageous_yet_somehow_more_so.html
This is not a political rant or a “poor us” call for help. I believe we do not have the systems and support in place from a political, social or economic standpoint to fully support the progression of women in work and in society. The data and research plus our own experiences demonstrate that this is the case. Like in the Myth of Sisyphus, we have been somewhat destined to a fate of striving forward and pushing uphill to only repeat the same destiny over and over again against institutionalized gender inequity. We’re told to lean in, to lean back, to work, to stay home and raise our children, to work and raise our children, to push harder and faster to succeed in a system that sometimes marginalizes us and makes it extremely challenging to break through the glass ceiling.
Despite it all, women are banding together and we are reclaiming our identities and our voices. Not only are we coming together as women, we are also working together with men and many companies are putting gender equity at the forefront of their Diversity & Inclusion and talent strategies.
As I reflect on my own journey and my own choices, I cannot help but think about those who have mentored me along the way, both men and women. By mentoring women, we have a practical way of unlocking their potential and helping them navigate through their organizational cultures so they can achieve their goals, advance and lead for the future; research shows that people with mentors are more likely to get promoted, yet women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders (https://leanin.org/mentor-her/). Mentoring women invests in women and can help pave the way to a new day on the horizon as we all say, “time is up!”