Welcome home from the Women’s March to a life where women will be treated fairly, pay will be equal, and life looks peachy. Through these rose colored lenses I can also predict that I will lose all the “baby weight” from my 3-year old in 30 days and we can 3D print product instantly.
If I take off the glasses there are a few things I can see very clearly that we can’t really do without in 2017, but just pointing out the problems isn’t quite the solution. So I got together with some of my female colleagues in the business world and we talked. From those talks came a few very insightful pieces of information on what you can do post-march to make some significant changes in your world.
Listen, it’s tough to be a woman. A lot of people don’t want that to be said out loud but it is what it is and I am going to say it because I want 2017 to be the year of women. One where we don’t feel like we need to hide or excuse some of the things that go along with being a woman.
In 2009, a few months after having my second of three daughters, I found myself pumping breast milk in the electric closet of my new client’s High Point, North Carolina showroom and I felt angry and embarrassed. For me, it was really what led up to that moment that was truly eye opening as a woman. I was traveling to the trade show on behalf of a male client, leaving my new baby at home for 5+ days. Pumping was a necessity for survival, one my male client never even considered. It just wasn’t in his thought process to accommodate my needs. The only private places I could find was an unsanitary toilet stall in the Ladies Room or that electrical closet. With one hand fumbling with my equipment with the other on the door, I was freaking out that I might be exposing the milk to all kinds of electromagnetic radiation. How mortifying that would have been, had other convention goers or even my client realized I was actually a real woman! Time has allowed me the perspective of knowing I should have just spoken up for my needs, but the real working world is not accommodating in this way, not for the needs of women and not for when you speak up for those needs. This has to change.
With the feminist movement, a lot of people confused equality with sameness and ever since then, women have been trying to squeeze themselves into a male-shaped box or one defined by what a “woman” is supposed to look and be like. We have to stop pretending we are the same without a negative association. We can be equal and different than men AND equal and different than each other, and that is the diverse business world we should all strive to create. Let’s talk about the things we, as women, can do to get there.
1. Start a Conversation: I am pretty sick of hearing people string these three words together because everyone is talking about starting conversations without actually having conversations. I am bringing a new view on this with the hopes that every woman reading this will actually start at least one conversation when it comes to these issues. Whether it is speaking up for your needs, the needs of another woman or the next generation of women, or just talking about experiences you’ve had, we must talk about these things. Even though my male client was a devoted family man, I am sure he never even considered my need of a comfortable place to pump for my child and we should have talked about that. We can get a lot done when we converse openly, even if it is difficult or uncomfortable. Breaking barriers is something women have been accomplishing for decades now, backwards and in heels. We have come so far, so why back down now?
2. Find A Mentor: Everyone needs a mentor. Period. Every successful person I know has at least one mentor that they rely on for insight, wisdom, and perspective. Mental Performance Coach, Silvica Rosca, learned a lot from her time in the male-dominated defense industry world. She knows the struggle is real. She found her way into coaching after realizing how important her mindset was to her success and she had a lot to say about finding a mentor “You always need a mentor but it doesn’t always have to be the same mentor because as your life changes and as you change, the mentor you need will also change.” Along with that:
a. Find someone who is willing to be honest with you and share the struggle along with the lessons learned.
b. Find someone who is the kind of woman you want to be, not in the job position you hope to be in. If you wish to be more confident, seek a strong and confident mentor. Focus on the character of your mentor and align with that.
c. Your mentor doesn’t have to be decades ahead of you. Find someone 3–5 years ahead because they will still remember being exactly where you are right now and they can help you navigate.
d. Use your mentor to help you navigate those tough conversations we talked about earlier. Even if she has not stood up for herself, she might just recognize how to handle it better.
The beautiful thing about finding a mentor is that we are seeing women from all walks of life step up to help lead new generations of women. Many organizations, like Today’s Growth Consultants under the leadership of Kerri Courtright and her husband Ken Courtright have been developing opportunities for women to find mentorship, masterminds and larger speaking stages. At their last Digital Footprint event they had a specific program featuring successful and influential women speakers like, Gena Lofton, Betsy Westhafer, Heshie Segal, Erica Castner, and Focus on Impact expert Wendy Lipton-Dibner.
3. Focus on your finances and financial literacy: Women and money apart are fine, but together they become taboo because people toss around derogatory terms when women want to secure their financial futures (i.e.: greedy, gold digger). But women live longer and usually end up with more of the parental burden if there is a separation/divorce so this is a topic you need to familiarize yourself with. Take some time to learn about the resources you need to survive on your own, investments, and how to support yourself should you need to. The only helpless woman anyone idolizes exists in a ‘fairy tale’ and who really wants their own story’s climax to be a rescue rather than an achievement?
Everything isn’t always fine and perfect, and it’s time that we women let the façade go and get real about what it means to be a modern day working woman. The more we are willing to openly discuss where we are, the easier it will become to see where we want to go.