As I sit here, the whole world is pretty much reeling about what happened last night in the US election. I’ll be honest with you – I’ve been crying all morning. I am sad for the world, and sad for what this means for the equality of women. I am not an uber political person, nor am I sitting here thinking you are all waiting for my personal thoughts, but I have to get them out, and if I’m going to do it anywhere, my blog is the place. This is a little bit of a personal essay about my own experiences, and women. All of us. My heart is heavy, and I want to share a little bit of my history and viewpoints with you.
I grew up with a single mother, and a father who was absent after they divorced when I was 7 years old. My father did not pay child support, nor was he involved in my life, by his own choice. That sounds dramatic and sad, but with such a strong mother, I did not ever miss having his presence in my life, nor did I want for anything. I loved my childhood. My mom was a hard worker, my grandma, her mother, helped to raise us for a time, living with us for 3 years before she passed away when I was 10 years old. The level of influence my grandma had on us stays with me to this day. She was also a very strong woman who had 7 children, she was a school teacher, and a homemaker. She worked in her family business. She also expressed her creativity through writing and poetry. This was not the norm back in those days (the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s). She lead by example. She worked hard. She stood up for herself and was strong, fair, compassionate and independent. It’s just how it was, and she didn’t expect recognition for it.
My mother was the first in her family to graduate college and went on to a nursing career. The qualities held by her mother, are also very much who she is to this very day. She always taught me to give, to treat people fairly, and to be of service, but to always stand up for who you are, and what you want. It was for all of the above reasons, that it never occurred to me that a woman could not fend for herself. Like, literally, I’ve never considered having anyone else pay my bills – it’s never been a thought. I take care of myself, those around me, and create my own life. I know SO many women who do the same. The women in my life are there by choice and are supportive, capable, they are go-getters, they not only dream big, but contribute to the dreams of others. They are business owners, mothers, champions, and they each inspire me every single day.
My mother never told me that I could be anything I wanted. It was just a given. She allowed me to find my path, to fail, and to make sure that I knew she was there for me when I did. This, I feel, was the key to who I’ve become as a woman who supports other women, works for other women, creates opportunities for women. I am a feminist, and I practice this every day. I surround myself with strong women. I am not afraid of strong women. That said, as women, it’s always a fine balance of having to do it all, to be the best mother, the hardest worker, the most ambitious, all while looking amazing, and not being too entitled, but yet confident, and the list goes on. Women are hard on themselves, and other women can be just as judgemental. It’s all just too much.
In my professional life, I’m sure like most women, I have experienced sexism. Some subtle, some blatant. Being objectified, superiors telling me that I’m too “strong” or “bossy”. Fighting (and winning) for a salary raise or a title update. Being told to get the men in the room coffee. Outrightly being belittled by email, and that being deemed as ok. I’ve luckily found a work around, and now run my own company that supports women-run businesses.
Unfortunately, the fact that Hillary, a strong, capable, resilient, brilliant, educated, experienced woman can lose out to a misogynistic, bigoted man, is exactly what shows that we have so much further to go for the equality of women. This has hit me hard. Yes, I am Canadian, but I am a woman first. I want to stand up for women, and to champion them fiercely.
Now, after we lick our wounds, we must all pick ourselves up, and make our own changes. Here are some things we can do to effect change for all of us:
- Avoid starting emails with “sorry to bother you” or the word “just”, because you aren’t a bother
- Encourage your fellow woman and compliment them on their qualities rather than how they look
- Be honest with other women about your struggles
- Take up your space and don’t apologize for it
- Observe and catch yourself when judging a woman by her looks
- Support other women wholeheartedly and generously
- Always remember that resilience is more important than failure
- Choose collaboration over competition, always
- Ask for that raise, and be clear on why you deserve it
- Catch yourself when complimenting little girls on being “nice”, “pretty” or “cute”, and replace that with “strong”, “kind” or “smart”
- Generously mentor the next generation of women in business
- Avoid clicking on links, visiting websites, or buying magazines that feature stories about women’s/celebrities weight, looks, or other derogatory topics
We can make the change. Women are powerful. We need the men in our lives to get mad, get angry, and then get active in our fight. It’s only right to end this with a quote from Hillary’s concession speech: