The Female Success
Today, as American citizens, we live in a world where we have a female Vice President. Our first female Vice President (please, let that sink in). We live in a world where we discuss moving women up into leadership roles and encourage them to engage in STEM topics, areas that are typically male dominated. We tell women to fight for equal pay, stand up for themselves in the workplace, and keep their head in the game even after they have children. We look up to these women. Now imagine if that one successful image we have was to only pave the way for herself, to disregard any of the struggles she previously had because she didn't want to relive the past or figured that, if she could endure the pain, so can other women. Picture how disappointed you would be in that leadership figure.
When I think of topics, such as diversity and inclusion (D&I) or even maternity leave policies, I find that these are becoming more prevalent, not just for me but for women and people of color worldwide. There are many companies that have attacked these topics with such fervor that they are now model companies to work for. They preach their values in the media, on their websites and live them in their day-to-day. Where I struggle is not with these companies or their leaders, but with the companies that preach their dedication to these types of topics on their website and in their speech, but not in their daily work practices.
When we experience companies that have made little progress in D&I or implementing maternity leave policies, you will find a handful of individuals trying to drive these topics on their own. They fight the good fight to get management to finally acknowledge how important these topics really are and they run into roadblock after roadblock. With a history of [predominantly white] males representing the leadership circles, it is easy to understand (but is not justified!) why certain topics are not at the forefront of their agendas - they have probably never experienced the feeling of disadvantage or exclusion, and they will certainly never understand what it feels like to birth a child. While I work every day not to resent these men and to calmly explain why these issues are important and need to be addressed, I have work even harder to understand why a woman would only pave the way for themselves, and disregard the struggles she had on her way to the top.
To any of the women who have struggled on their way up the corporate ladder: Did you enjoy your hardships? Did you like having to grit your teeth and keep your head down while situations remained unjust, all so that you did not jeopardize your way to the top? When you went back to work after maternity leave, were you fully healed? Did you cry when you dropped your child off at daycare for the first time, thinking to yourself that it was too soon? Did you worry every day throughout your "maternity leave" thinking that you needed to put your health on the backburner and get back to work so that you could make ends meet? And finally, why would you ever want another woman to feel the same way you did?
I use maternity leave and D&I as topics in this blog post because they weigh heavily on my heart. I truly believe that, if we want our women and people of color to strive to become world leaders, then we need to consciously make daily decisions to support women and diversity because women should not have to choose between a family and career. Envision a world where we practiced what we preached, where our policies and actions supported our goals, and we worked in companies that were no longer divided. Picture women coming back from maternity leave refreshed and happy, and worked their asses off for you to make your company a better place. Imagine people of color being heard in meetings, embracing a sense of belonging by their [white] coworkers, and offering a fresh perspective on topics. Imagine that.
Our first female VP broke the glass ceiling, but I ask her not to stop there. I hope she uses her time in office to prove to women in leadership positions everywhere that their fight to the top was not just for themselves, that they have a bigger purpose once they get there. I pray that her actions speak louder than her words and she is able to set an example for every woman everywhere. I believe that her examples can trickle down to women in leadership positions, so that they may recognize their purpose and act upon it. I hope that her success proves the importance of treating women and people of color equally - From the White House to the Shop Floor, we still have a long way to go but I am confident that she has the ability to bring about change. Kamala, I can't wait to see what you have in store!