Today is International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate women and call for gender equality.
Here’s my truth…I am not a womanist. I am a “people-ist”—I believe that we each have unique abilities and face unique challenges, no matter our gender, race or sexual preference.
I am a believer in the wonderment of women. And I believe that women should honor their wonderment as should all the world. And I mean all their wonderment—not just the part that tries to be equal to, or the same as, men or even deny the differences between men and women.
Every one of us has his/her unique strengths and weakness, some learned and some because of our genes. This diversity is a wonderful thing. Depending on how you define equality, it should not be the goal. Equal opportunity, yes…interchangeable pieces on life’s chessboard, no.
I expressed my gratitude for men’s unique gifts in my blog last year , and I believe that women, too, are amazing and special beings who offer a vast array of unique gifts to the world.
Here are my “biggies”…
Women have an empathetic way of connecting and communicating: They have the ability to connect with others through empathy and emotion. The connections in our brains allow us to process multisensory data more effectively than men, allowing us a different method of processing and increased verbal communication. In other words, we connect in a way that most men don’t.
Women are naturally nurturing: Hormones rule all our bodies. Women’s hormones encourage those motherly instincts at home and work. They just do.
Women are born jugglers: Many men will debate whether or not anyone can effectively multitask—but women’s brains are wired to process a whole lot of information from multiple places all at the same time…and then jump back and forth as needed. How else could we handle the individual needs of each of our children and our spouse…and a barking dog while talking on the phone while food is on the stove? And yes, we can do the same thing in business. I do it every day…some days better than others.
Women have female style: Whether this is a product of nature or nurture, each woman develops her individual style and uses it to impact the world around her.
I am often asked to comment on glass ceilings in the C-Suite (the top senior executives, including CEOs, CFOs, etc.). My usual response is that I really don’t worry about it, and I never did—even when I was working in the cutthroat world of New York advertising agencies. I acknowledge that I came of age in the 1980s, well after the likes of modern-day leaders of the feminist movement such as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and even Billie Jean King broke down a whole lot of gender barriers. I was lucky enough to grow up in a world that never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. The conversation never came up in my house or in my community. My parents simply raised us as people who had the opportunity to pursue whatever path most inspired us, no matter what that path was. So I was never distracted by thoughts of being held back, let alone focused on the world’s unfairness. I simply didn’t distract myself from my goals by worrying about who was or was not getting more than me and whether it was or was not fair.
And as far as the C-suite is concerned, has anyone stopped to wonder if more women really want to be there? Or to acknowledge that the reason many women don’t climb higher on the corporate ladder is simply because they don’t want to or they really are happy choosing their family and motherhood over career?
As a working mother, I know there is no way that a woman can have a high-powered career and adequately parent her children and maintain a relationship with her spouse without a community of help. The only reason I was able to do it was because my schedule was tremendously flexible…I had a short commute to work…and I had an amazing network of help.
I challenge you—and I challenge the people involved in the many women-centric movements—to consider whether we are spending too much time and effort looking backward, complaining about life’s unfairness, rather than realizing that the path has been cleared and we now can move forward. There is a difference between equal and the opportunity to be equal. Not everyone is interested in being gender-equal. Focusing our energies on inequities only distracts us from the tremendous progress and opportunities that exist for those who choose to pursue them.
Each of us is born with a unique set of skills and talents. Thankfully those talents are not all identical or else we would have a very boring and limited world. While there are days when I wish I were a better musician or statistician or cook, I know that those simply are not my best talents. I appreciate the fabric of the world and look to surround myself with people to fill in my gaps at work just as I picked a life partner who is strong where I am weak and vice versa.
The fight for women’s rights is not yet over. But here in the US, I would argue that women already have their equal rights and opportunities—they just have to exercise them.