The older I get the less I believe in coincidence. Ideas, people, things do appear at the right time, the time when we can open our eyes and see them.
Recently, I reconnected with a friend. She inspired me with her ideas, her passion for life, her drive to find her purpose and to develop that purpose in to a life work. How can you not love that? Yesterday, she referred me to a book which I immediately placed on order: Lean-In Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. Find it at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women-Work-Will/dp/0385349947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367086380&sr=8-1&keywords=Lean+In
The author, Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook. She is also a woman.
Last week in a high school US history class, the topic was women’s liberation. The teacher asked why there weren’t more women in administration in education. The class tossed out a few answers. He told them they were all wrong. I raised my hand. (I couldn’t help myself.) I said that women remain the primary child care givers and that we often sacrifice career advancement in favor of raising a family or attending to family needs. He told me I was also wrong.
The answer he said was “there are fewer female applicants.”
This is not really an answer. The ‘why’ is missing. None of the students seemed to care that his answer made no sense. Most of them weren’t listening.
At first I thought that maybe I was missing something. Wait! NO, he is missing something. The ‘why’ matters. It may be the only thing that really does in this issue. Understanding the why is the first step in solving this inequity. As long as we have men and women who accept the answer that “there are fewer applicants” we’re all going to stand around staring at our shoes and not accomplish anything.
I shared this with a co-worker who replied, “Isn’t that exactly what his wife is doing?”
It sure looks that way.
All this is occurring in the back ground, while I’m trying to make a transition from a woman who is an excellent survivor to one who is a thriver, an excellent thriver. Surviving has gotten old. I want something more.
But I have been caught in a dilemma. I have to work but one of the “jobs” I enjoy most is that of wife and mother. This is a job that doesn’t pay anything. It isn’t given much respect or status. Some people value this job but until we compensate women for doing this important work, words are empty. Over the years, I’ve lost count of the people who couldn’t believe that I had a college education and didn’t have a better job. Currently, as a staff assistant, most people assume that I hold the job because I “can’t get anything else.”
While a down economy and age discrimination make the “I can’t get anything else” more true, I choose this job because I want the same vacation schedule as my children. I sacrifice prestige and money because I value my family. I chose to have children later in life. I also chose to make them my primary job. That doesn’t make me less intelligent or less self-actualized, it makes me a woman who made the choice to sacrifice career for a career that is more important to me.
Since I am a woman, I pay attention to issues that affect me because of my gender. Women remain the primary care givers in their families. I’ve known women who have been fired because they took off work to care for a sick child or to pick a sick child up from school. I know women who have taken their sick children to work in order not to get fired. Women turn down promotions in their jobs because it would take time away from their families. When women talk in small groups, and you know we do, women often express their desire to not have to work at least full-time, because they don’t have enough time for their families and they want it.
There are also women who prefer working outside the home. They are equally worthy of my support. If liberation is to mean anything, I must support my sisters who chose to do something I would not.
When I took my husband’s last name, I was soundly criticized by many of my female coworkers. Liberation means nothing if we turn on each other and fail to support other women’s right to choose. Women, divided are much less effective than women united. If we all went on strike, the world would stop. If you ever doubt your power and a woman, just remember this: without our participation in the miracle of birth, life would end.
It’s time for me to take the proverbial bull by the horns and start living as an empowered woman who is capable of making choices in line with my values while pursuing a career that allows me to build on my desire to nurture and encourage others that there are options for us to thrive in a world that doesn’t yet completely value our contribution. My “second job” as a Mary Kay consultant is the perfect way to do this.
Women find out what you value, what is important to you, what excites you, what you love and pursue it. Pursue it wholeheartedly, without apology. Leave those who aren’t supportive of you behind. They might be waiting for you to show them something they aren’t ready to see just yet.
Mary Kay isn’t the right fit for everyone but before you decide it isn’t for you, find out more. I am building a team of empowered woman who want more control over their careers and a flexibility that lets them live in their values instead of simply struggling to survive in a world with “fewer female applicants.” Now is the perfect time to begin to thrive.