This isn’t the blog I meant to post today. I had another blog planned, poking fun of my youngest son and his plans to hit the road driving when he turns 16 in a few months. I was minutes away from publishing, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt something more pressing, something more urgent, was needed.
What inched its way to top? Let me tell you. The company where I work had a program last week related to International Women’s Day. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past five days, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 and recognizes women’s achievements throughout history. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
With the celebration, I’ve been thinking about the women in my life, everyone from my mother to my mother-in-law. As some of you may recall from a previous blog, my mom grew up Amish in rural Central Pennsylvania. Think living with no electricity; traveling via horse and buggy, instead of car; and being forced to follow a strict religious doctrine. At a very young age and with the odds and financial means stacked against her, she set out on her own and built a new life for herself. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to see how amazing and how challenging of a decision that was to make.
My mother-in-law too has been a pillar of support for my wife and I. When our kids were young, she was there supporting us constantly by helping pick them up from school or filling in when they were sick and needed to stay home. We couldn’t have managed or even balanced work and life without her. And what’s even more exciting is that she has a special place in each of their hearts.
I’ve been thinking too of my wife and daughter. My wife is the rock that keeps our family together. She’s amazing. I don’t have any other words in my vocabulary to explain her. I would be lost without her patience and her guidance. Our daughter too has not fallen far from the tree (in other words, her mother). She’s teaching and working with school kids in South America helping them to see the leader in themselves.
The stories behind the stories
I wonder sometimes about these celebratory days and even want to downplay their significance, but then I stop and really listen to the data. Of course, I quickly shut my mouth, because the numbers tell a pretty bleak picture. Women earned just 79 cents for every dollar men made in 2019, according to PayScale, a compensation software and data company, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It gets worse. A frequently cited report by Hewlett Packett reports that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of posted job qualifications, but women regularly only apply if they meet 90 to 100% of them, resulting in women applying for 20% fewer jobs.
I want to refute the numbers, I want to say that we’re further along than we really are, but then I stop to think about my own experience, or should I say the experiences of the women I work with and admire, and it hits me . . . this is exactly what I, err, I mean, exactly what “they’ve” experienced firsthand.
Sad but true
Here’s what I mean. At least three times in the past when I was moving onto a new role, one of my team members asked who I thought was going to be my replacement. Each time I remember questioning why the woman in front of me was not even thinking about applying for the role when they were equally, if not more qualified, than myself or others.
I thought too about how we promote careers for boys and girls. I always thought leadership roles were within my grasp. They weren’t my God-given right by any stretch of my imagination, but certainly within the realm of possibility with hard work and some smarts. The more I’ve grown though I find that the women I’ve come across haven’t had the same encouragement from teachers and mentors that I’ve had over the years. It hasn’t been an overt pushdown . . . just not an active encouragement to view life with a perspective that say, “the skies the limit.”
Finally, I listened as some of my current coworkers talked about the challenges they’ve experienced in the workplace. I cringed when one woman said she’s had clients ignore her in meetings, thinking that junior males were her boss, when in fact it was the other way around. Another woman I talked to later in the day mentioned that she turns on ESPN first thing in the morning, not because she loves the NBA or Football, but because informal post-meeting conversation so often turns to sports and she doesn’t want to be excluded. “I don’t even like football” she said.
The future is calling
Yes, this isn’t the blog I planned to post today, but it’s a story that deserves to be told, a story that needs to get out. International Women’s Day has passed, but we need to remember now more than ever the value of women in our lives. We need to remember the role women play in work and business and encourage the next generation. We’ve come such a long way, but we have so many more miles to go.