Today marks the end of Women’s History Month which was formally recognized in 1987. To celebrate the end of this important month, we’re going to be diving into the three main reasons we celebrate women’s history month from the perspective of an elder Millennial.
First, we celebrate because we haven’t given women their due attention. For a long time, women weren’t acknowledge in history because men wrote the majority of historical documents. But we’ve been there and played important roles in society.
I feel lucky to have been witness to women making historical achievements in my lifetime. For example, Madeleine Albright who became the first Secretary of State which then paved the way for Hillary Clinton to take the position under Obama and later become the first Democratic female presidential nominee. Not to mention the latest glass ceiling breaker – Kamala Harris, our nation’s first female VP. No matter the side of the aisle you’re on, getting women into top leadership positions is important and the US is behind in this area as 19 countries are currently being led by women. For the first time, little girls are starting to see themselves in top government positions and that opens up a world of possibilities. This is important.
Women are owning more businesses than ever before – as of 2018, there were over 12 million women-owned businesses in the US alone compared to just 400,000 in 1972. I’m not talking about the pyramid schemes. Ladies – please stop falling for these and stop sending me facebook event invites to participate.
And women are seeing some gains in corporate America as well where we hold 28% holding SVP positions and 6.2% of CEO positions. Considering we are over 50% of the population, while these gains are good to see, they aren’t nearly enough for equal representation. Why is this happening?
It’s not because we aren’t getting educated as 56% of college graduates are women. It’s because while women are taking on more leadership responsibilities in corporate America, they aren’t seeing a decrease in responsibilities at home. One could argue that the responsibilities that were expected of the 50’s housewife aren’t that far off from the expectations of 2021. Men are taking more of a role, but they’re still congratulated when they “babysit” the kids. We hold them to high regard if they cook dinner or switch the laundry from the washer to dryer.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it’s hard to be too optimistic when women are still 1.5X more likely than fathers to be spending an additional 3-4 more hours a day on housework and childcare and the additional pressures of COVID is threatening to undo decades worth of progress for women in the workplace.
What does this mean for me? I’ve worked hard over the past 15+ years to achieve a high level of leadership in my career. I’m currently one of 28% that hold an SVP title in my company. I’ve have the opportunity to learn from strong females throughout my career and I’m proud to say the company I chose to work for has strong female representation in leadership positions which is inspiring to me. But while I’ve had female support in the workplace, I’ve had to face criticism and unrealistic expectations in my personal life as a result of my professional success from family that grew up in a different era.
When I received my first promotion, I was told “I’m so proud of you, but you won’t have to work when you get married.” When I switched agencies, I was asked “Is Christian ok with this move?” To which I responded, is he ok with me moving to a company four blocks from my current employer? Gee, I don’t know, I didn’t ask permission.
When I started looking into Buddhism, I was warned if I go too deep into this “spiritual thing” Christian could be turned off I was changing.
When I’ve considered other career paths, I’ve been told that maybe it’s not a good time for a change as how would I handle a new job and start a family? Well, the same way I would handle starting a family with my current job.
Every step of the way, I’ve been made to feel like my success as a woman was reliant on my ability to have children and everything I was doing until then was just wasting time until my real job of being a mother started.
This way of thinking and talking to me over fifteen years has perpetuated the fear that if I do become a mother, I have to give all of it up. It’s made me scared of motherhood. It’s also made me scared of not being able to conceive. Like if I waited too long and can’t have a kid, then were they right? Is my life a failure then? Was it all not worth it?
This kind of pressure is absurd, and solely placed on women. How dare you put my worth in my ability to birth children. How dare you act like my accomplishments are less than because they don’t fit into what you believe I should prioritize. And don’t tell me I’ll understand when I become a parent as it’s condescending and just tells me you don’t know me at all. Will my priorities change? Yes, of course. But will my career become unimportant? No. Will I leave my career and everything I’ve worked so hard for? No. Will I relish when I prove to you that I can actually have both? A career and a family? Yes.
Because of this fear that has been placed in me, I find myself with a growing sense of awe for working moms, especially those in leadership positions which leads me to my next point.
We celebrate Women’s History Month because women are inspirational. Women are inspirational because there are barriers stacked against us that we keep breaking down. Women are fighters. We have had to fight for every right we have and we have to keep fighting to keep them.
I would be what they call a Feminist and it saddens me that anyone considers that word negative. A Feminist purely wants equality between men and women. How is that a negative thing? It’s not about men hating. It’s also not saying there are no differences between men and women. It’s about not wanting to be discriminated against because of our gender.
I find women inspirational that require equality. The mothers that won’t give up their jobs and require the fathers to do their part. The athletes that force reporters to ask questions about their performance and not their outfit (shout out to Serena on that one). The millions of women that show up in Washington DC to fight for the protection of our rights. I am very proud to say I was one of those women.
As I get older, I find myself thinking about my contribution to the women’s movement. I’ve benefited from generations of women before me pathing the way. So how will I continue to create opportunities for women to come? I heard a quote the other day (I’m big into quotes), Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stand up for all women.
This is my contribution. Growing up, I’ve been told I’m loud. I talk too much. I shouldn’t push back. I question too much. I’m too aggressive.
But as I get older, I realize that all this is saying is I stand up for myself and what I believe in and that makes people uncomfortable. I won’t just agree to be likeable. I won’t sit back and not say something if I see something is wrong. I have spoken up for myself, but I also have been the voice for others that are scared to speak up on their own behalf.
I will admit, sometimes this gets me into trouble. Often it brings me more drama and conflict in my life than I’d like. It’s not the easy road. The easy road would be to shut up. The easy road would be to not speak up or call people out. My life would be easier. My life would be more drama-free. So why do it? Why get involved? Why not just mind my own business?
Well for me, I think about all the women before me that didn’t speak up. I wonder where we would be if more women were willing to take the hard route? Because the reality is while there have been many inspirational women that were game-changers, there were a lot more that stood on the sideline.
There still are plenty of women that do. Women that don’t vote for their own self-interest. Women that attack other women for not wanting children. Women that choose to put other women down instead of lifting them up. I am not, and will never be that woman. We have enough of them.
So for me, I speak up because I can. Because I’m not afraid. Because there are women that need others to speak for them. Because I hope to inspire others to speak up for themselves. Because if I have a daughter, you better believe she’s not going to be the quiet one in the back of the room. You better be ready for her roar.
That leads me to the last reason we celebrate Women’s History Month – because it’s a time for us to stop and recognize the strength and power of women.
In the words of an amazing woman, Beyonce “Strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business”. There’s no denying that women are strong as hell and it’s not just because we birth human beings.
We also have to deal with everyday safety threats at a much higher rate than men. These threats can be in the home as 32% of women experience physical violence from her partner at some point in her life. 44% of women experience sexual violence and 47% of the victims knew their attacker. 24% of girls vs. 16% of boys reported experiencing bullying on school periorty and online is so much worse as 21% of girls vs. only 8.5% of boys have been bullyed electronically.
In the past, the #MeToo movement sought to shed a light on sexual violence against women and made great strides in giving these victims a voice. This year, tactics women use to protect ourselves when alone in public became the topic of conversation. Things like holding keys between your knuckles or switching sides of the street to avoid groups of men.
In both cases, women that spoke up faced intense backlash from men showing once again how difficult it is for men to admit their role in women’s issues. During the MeToo movement, victims were publicly shamed or victim blamed. Men started reacting saying they didn’t even know how to act around women anymore. In this current conversation, the hashtag #notallmen is going viral as men try to separate themselves from the conversation instead of engaging from a place of empathy and allyship.
I realize these topics are heavier than I normally talk about on this podcast, but I would be remiss to talk about women’s history month without mentioning the daily struggle we have to feel safe. I can relate to this. I live in downtown Chicago. I travel the world. I have to keep my safety top of mind when I leave the house.
I have a personal alarm that is on my keychain I carry with me. I have pepper spray. I look in my reflection when passing a building to see who’s behind me. I won’t go running after sunset. I consider myself a very strong and independent woman and yet there are places I won’t go alone for fear for my own safety.
There was a study done that asked women what they would do if there was a day without men. The number one response? Talk a walk.
That is one of the saddest stats I’ve ever heard. All women want is to be able to feel safe to just take a walk. This reminds me of the recent news story out of the UK, Sarah Everard who was walking home around 9pm and was killed by a cop on her way home.
It sparked worldwide conversation because it was a cop, but then the expected conversation came after – what can women do to protect themselves? Can I tell you, this question pisses me off.
What should we do? Maybe we should hold men accountable for their actions. Maybe we should stop blaming women for what they were wearing or that they shouldn’t be out alone at night.
We should be able to wear whatever we want. We should be able to walk down the street no matter the time. We are never asking for it. We never deserve it.
All in all, Women’s history month is a celebration of the progress we made. But make no mistake, there’s still so much to be done and although women are strong as hell, we can’t do it alone. We need our male allies to support us. We need to speak up for ourselves and others. We need to continue the fight for equality. We need to stop victim blaming and start holding men accountable. I know in my lifetime I will see much more progress, and my hope is when it’s my time to go, I can look back and feel like I played a part. I want to break my own glass ceiling and prove everyone wrong that told me I can’t have my career and be a good mom. I want to inspire other women to speak up for themselves and others. And I will hold men accountable for their role in our daily struggle to feel safe. I’m going to leave you with a quote from one of the greats, Jane Goodall. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
Cheers to all my ladies out there, you bad-ass bitches. Keep doing you and let’s keep pushing together so those that come after us will have less barriers than we have. Until next time!