International Women's Day - So what??
I woke up this morning to a barrage of Twitter posts and emails with hashtags like #IWD2018, #InternationalWomensDay, #WomensDay and while having my 1st cup of coffee I was wondering "So what?". Why is it important to me to celebrate womens day?
Yes, I am a woman --> check
Yes, I am a mother --> check
Yes, I am a wife --> check
These are all things that makes me different from a man.
... but so what? These things make me different from a man, but they make a man different from me because a man would be well... a man, a husband, a father. Why do we single out women?
It feels like that by celebrating Women's Day we imply that women are less capable and thus we need to be measured "differently". It feels like we are saying "for a woman, she did well..." I dont want people to start ANY sentence with "For a woman..." when they speak about me. They should say "For a PERSON..."
So I decided to do some reading, I need to figure out why this day should be important. Maybe it's just important because we as a society are so focussed on celebrating differences that we forget to celebrate the things that bring us together. Maybe this is just one of those political-correct things...
One of the first things I noticed was that some women are thanking other women for their influence and impact they had on them. OK - so maybe one of the reasons to celebrate this day is to say thanks.... but I don't have any women in my firm who mentors me. Just a group of amazing men. Does that mean I should thank them on some other day for all their support? I'm moving on - this can't be a reason why I want to celebrate this day.
Next I see an article by Cathy Engelbert, our CEO, and in the first sentence she explains it all to me..."we pause and take stock of the progress we have made with women’s equality and inclusion". So it's not about me or the fact that I am a woman, it's about the women out there that do not have the same opportunities as men in general, or even the same opportunities as what I have.
She also asks: "How are we in the business community reducing the barriers that block women from reaching their full potential and raising the tides of opportunities for those that do not have access to life’s basic needs?"
In that sentence she addresses 2 very big concepts, the first being: "How are we in the business community reducing the barriers that block women from reaching their full potential". Well, in my firm I feel there aren't a lot of barriers that block me, well at least not that I am aware of. I don't doubt for one second that I am being treated the same as my male colleagues. I hope I'm getting paid the same as them, but how would I know? No one is going to tell me if I am underpaid... So moving on again...
Part 2 of her sentence is: "and raising the tides of opportunities for those that do not have access to life’s basic needs?"" --> this is a biggy. I don't know anyone, male or female, that do not have access to life's basic needs. i acknowledge that this makes me lucky and privileged. I come from Africa, I have seen people who do not have such access, and it's terrible. But I am not sure what I can do to make this better. If I jump on a plane and go help women somewhere in the world fight their battles, I'll loose my job and will need help myself. So moving on swiftly....
Luckily in the next few paragraphs Cathy says something that resonates, something that I feel i can help with... She said: "From a workplace perspective, ..... .... With mentoring programs focused on women, we can greatly accelerate careers that would otherwise get stuck in low gear. .... potential leaders need to be identified early, challenged to grow, pressed into new assignments, and given a way to imagine their careers in new ways."
Coupled with the fact that I don't have a female mentor, maybe it's time to stop asking "who wants to help me" and look over my shoulder and ask "who can I help?". Maybe that's what I am supposed to celebrate today. Maybe that's why Womens Day is worth celebrating, not a political ideology but something you and I can DO, TODAY, to make a difference.
So I have a hatched a plan... for those of you that know me personally, this is usually a very dangerous time. My plans usually go sky-high and very big "Boom"! But I have one, and I am acting on this RIGHT NOW. Wish me luck!
P.S. If it works, I'll tell you all about it, if not, we will just bury this post quietly....