Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is Pledge for Parity because the World Economic Forum conducted a study that estimated that global gender parity will be achieved in 117 years. ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN YEARS. That means in 2133 women will finally have equal access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity everywhere in the world. Holy insert string of expletives here.
As a student of history, I can tell you this with absolute certainty. When marginalized groups do not band together, raise their voices, and demand to be heard, conscious and unconscious biases continue to reign supreme. Women are, globally, a marginalized group. And we account for 50% of the world’s population. Unless you are in China where they are experiencing a crisis because they decided female babies were the worst and now the marrying aged men HAVE NO ONE TO MARRY AND REPOPULATE CHINA WITH. China, you brought that on yourself.
Many of you may be thinking, women can do whatever they want. Hillary Clinton is about to lose the presidency to Donald Trump. Women have cracked the glass ceiling! But that’s toro scheiße and virtually every study on pay and leadership diversity will prove you wrong. I feel legitimate gratitude that I am an educated white woman who can earn 80 cents on the dollar to a man’s salary because I’m basically winning at the wage gap. Even though I am 20% behind.
I don’t know if it’s the statistic or the fact that I had to do math before 10 a.m. but I went from gratitude to anger in approximately one heartbeat after writing that last paragraph. Let’s turn this post around.
What I really wanted to do today, before the little roaring feminist inside of me got her hands on my keyboard, was practice an attitude of gratitude for the fierce tribe of women who have made all the difference in my life. Not only do I feel blessed that I am only 20% behind in pay and that every once in a while the medications I am prescribed are actually studied on women and not just men, but I also feel blessed, every single day, to have been raised with ferocious models of all the different things women can be. And I am using “raised” very loosely – let’s say it spans the period of time from consciousness of childhood until right now.
The list is long, but you might be on it, so maybe you should take a breath and power through.
Let’s start with my mother who supported herself through college and earned a degree in biochemistry. She was fired by my father when she was pregnant with his first child (hi, that’s me!) because you know, 80’s and gender disparity. She raised my sister and me to be free thinkers, to never shy away from what we really feel, and to explore whatever the hell we wanted to explore. As a model of womanhood, she showed us that you can be a homemaker, mother, and absolute lunatic who pays no mind to societal norms. She’s wild and hilarious and also very normal when the situation calls for normalcy. Two of my favorite memories of my mom terrorizing the people in her life are a vacation when my sister misbehaved to the point that my mom felt the best course of action was to chase her around the hotel room brandishing a toothbrush and the time when my parents and I were in a hotel elevator with my boyfriend and several children dripping wet from the pool. It was the first time she had met this boyfriend and she looked him in the eye and asked him if he had peed on the elevator floor.
I was raised with eight aunts, a handful of female cousins, my sister, and two lively grandmothers. This extended tribe of womanhood came in all shapes, sizes, careers, and varying degrees of mental health. What every single one of these women has in common is a bright spark for life. They are all big personalities that have boldly pursued all kinds of personal passions and have made an impact on the worlds around them. Their lives are daily reminders that gender roles are about as relevant a model for daily life as sushi rolls.
I have a profound amount of gratitude for the women who raised me professionally as well. My first experience with a female mentor in the workplace was at right after college. I worked as an administrative assistant for the scariest badass lady boss at the company. Although my fear of evisceration upon entering her office never fully subsided, we formed a strong and what probably seemed to many rather unlikely, bond. She was assertive, intelligent, and an incredible leader. She was universally respected (and maybe universally a little bit feared too). From my time with her, I learned to get to the point immediately, never make excuses, speak up if someone is giving you the runaround, and ask for a damn raise if you’ve taken on more responsibilities and have earned a damn raise.
I’ve been lucky to develop as a leader under the guidance of two wonderful wine industry women who have shown me the difference between managing and leading. They’ve taught me to be curious before rushing to judgment, to see difficult work situations from all sides of the equation, and to empower my team to do their best work. They have been shining models of projecting genuine warmth and kindness while maintaining the respect of your colleagues and your dignity in the workplace. They are two extraordinarily kind women who are nobody’s doormats.
There is also a pretty special tribe of women who basically keep me a functional human woman. I have two kickass trainers who push me hard, fix my body when it’s broken, and make me feel like I can do anything…at least for a minute. I have the world’s single greatest therapist who, sometimes, is the only person able to lift my spirits and open my eyes to all of the possibilities in the universe. There’s a badass hairdresser in the mix who is SO good to me even though I am the Goldilocks of getting my hair done and I probably drive her nuts. We spend a lot of time together when I’m there and she teaches me about parenting, how to avoid sugar, gluten and eggs, Feng Shui, and all sorts of groovy stuff I’d never otherwise be exposed to. And there’s the sweetest, most hardworking, little business woman who takes care of my face and some other body parts at the spa she grew from one rented room to a thriving business.
And for the final scene of this short play, Attitude of Gratitude, a shout out to the female friends in my life who have been through it all with me. This group runs the full spectrum of lady awesomeness. They are engineers, entrepreneurs, business managers, writers, winemakers, chefs, photographers, accountants, servers, C-level executives and teachers. They are kind, witty, smart, courageous, inspiring, beautiful and the best damn people I’ve been lucky enough to know. We talk each other off the ledge, celebrate each other’s successes to the fullest, travel together, love and lose together, and play together. And sometimes we offer water to strangers together while one of us tells those strangers that have just run 20 miles that it’s actually vodka. Full spectrum of lady awesomeness.
It felt critical to express how deeply I believe that I could not be who I am or where I am today without the influence of all of the women in my life. We can do it all, but there are a lot of factors out of our hands that hold us back.
Do you know what helps? Agreeing to take a stand and educating yourself on what you can do. Go online and take the Pledge for Parity. When you do, you’ll be treated to a robust list of concrete ways you can personally affect change.