March 8th is International Women’s Day – a day created back in 1908 to honor, respect and appreciate women. I look forward to a day when we don’t have a special day dedicated to women. I hope it happens in my lifetime; however, with the slow progress we’ve made in the two decades I have been working, I am not optimistic.
The US ranks in the bottom 10 performing countries for women in senior management roles.
I am in an industry dominated by women in junior positions. They are hard working, talented and motivated young women who have something to prove. They come from great schools, families and communities where equality for women is not even a thought because it is just so. But why do the number of women in senior positions dip so dramatically? Our company picks the best person for the job, so it isn’t because the men are better – it’s because the women aren’t there fighting for the seat.
I don’t want to get into a large discussion on if it’s better to say at home vs stay in the work force – enough has been done on this topic and we will agree to respect each others’ opinions. Especially since mine change on a daily basis depending on whom I speaking with and what the day has been like.
What I do think is vital that we talk about is long before someone is making a decision of what to do in their career that we have the discussion so it’s not so black and white – leave or go. It’s more grey. Grey leaves lots more options for doing what feels right. Working America (it’s not just corporate America) needs to figure out how to accommodate the idea of family units into our dialogue. It’s no longer black and white. There is no ‘balance’, there are only choices – I choose to be at work and during that time my children are safe with professional care givers. I choose to be at home on the weekend and my work is safe until I can make time for it. I choose to leave for a school play or come in late because of a child’s dentist appointment. Men and women make these choices everyday and have to figure out how to do it all.
I work in an organization that is far ahead of the national average on gender issues – in fact it’s not about fairness – I am confident that if the women were at the table they would be rewarded. The conversation is about how to create an environment to keep women in the running.
Google did a very nice video to celebrate the day. I am impressed by countries who have figured this out. You’d think the US would be one of them. Russia is the TOP country for women in senior management with 43% of senior position filled by women.
“It’s no longer feasible for U.S. businesses to adopt a sit and wait policy when it comes to promoting women to senior management roles, particularly when so many other nations —developed and emerging — are more rapidly realizing the benefits of diverse senior leadership,” said Erica O’Malley, Grant Thornton LLP’s national managing partner of Diversity & Inclusion.
I struggle with how to end this post. Do I want to inspire a movement? Sheryl Sandberg tired and got a national conversation going around Lean In and then there was the eventually backlash that comes with a successful person telling us how to live. She definitely created a stir and inspired millions. Then my friends on Facebook (see the irony) started liking this piece by Rosa Brooks “Recline! Why Lean In is killing us.” This resonated with a wide array of professional and career hiatus women – they were saying ‘thank you’ and ‘this made my day.’ They felt relieved to not have to answer to the giant unrealistic ask that Sheryl suggests. I don’t have the power or time to start a movement.
I want to start small in my own company to figure out what we can do with our awesome collection of talented women and men. What can we do to inspire change that will help the advancement of women in senior leadership? What can we do to end the need for International Women’s Day?
Just so I don’t take this too seriously my inspiration for today – live like Elsa from Frozen. Embrace who you are, don’t fear it. Live like the women of Saturday Night Live – push the limits of what was once never thought to be possible.