Being a woman…in business…in leadership.

I have LONG avoided this topic.  My stance has always been, “Why are we talking about people in business or leadership based on their body parts??” It seems incredibly ridiculous to me. I had the great pleasure of being raised by progressive parents.  My dad was especially validating.  I don’t remember him ever talking about feminism, or girl power or anything like that, it just was never an ISSUE.  EVER.  We didn’t talk about being girls or boys or race or anything like that.  Well, I do remember one particular instance, as a teenager, when I asked him if I was pretty.  He said, “no.”  HA!  My heart literally sank.  But then he added, “You are what I would call striking. When you walk in a room people just have to stop and look. You command presence. There is a lot of pretty in the world.  What you have is rare.”  Wow.  That is how you raise girls.

So I have always just assumed that gender, like race, is and should be a non-issue. I have turned down opportunities to speak on panels that ’empower women leaders” in the church as well as other sectors because I believe one should LIVE one’s convictions. (If it’s a non-issue, why would I dishonor that conviction with discussion that makes it an issue.)  It seems very few people see it that way.  So, I am redirecting. I still adamantly believe that gender should be a non-issue.  Side note:  Even IF being a woman is viewed as a perk to the hiring company.  Often these benefits are based on stereo types that may or may not apply. Books like “Women are like spaghetti.  Men are like Waffles” feed into these stereotypes.  Whereas there may be some trends in behavior that make a group of women identifiable (as well as men) there are always those who do not fit the stereotypes.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LIKE the differences I see in men and women.  I just don’t think they make either of them more qualified or worth more or less money.

Now, older and wiser, I feel the need to address society, cultural norms, men, women and in particular those in leadership.  To be clear, ‘those in leadership’ specifically means parents, educators, managers, business owners. Each human being will find it in their best interest to understand the value of the human being next to them.  None of us is complete. We, each of us, carry components needed to accomplish each others’ goals and, dare I say, dreams. To discount a person with female body parts (yes, I took out the “V” word – with an irritated smash of the delete key) by offering her less money, speaking down to her, or not even considering her for a job puts you, (yes, you) at a disadvantage.  Is a woman the right man for the job?  Not necessarily. But she may be.

As a woman especially talented at raising people (read:children) I managed my career while staying in-home for most of 20 years. I always had a job and it was usually one I created.  I.E. Direct sales (with perks like cars and jewelry), in-home day care,  marketing/ online presence management and newsletters. I also took jobs outside the home when needed.  I worked as a janitor, Substitute teacher, retail sales, management and finally a ‘full-time’ out-of-the-home marketing job. I never really stopped to think whether what I was doing was unconventional or conventional / expected or not.  It was an obvious choice for me.  I think society will (should) thank me for my contribution to the betterment of our futures by raising intelligent, kind, hard working people.

If you are interested in what smart women (like Sheryl Sandberg) have to say about this topic, watch this video.  I liked it.

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