International Women’s Day is Wednesday, March 8th, a global day focused on driving gender parity. We celebrate the achievements of women and the positive influence they’ve had while striving further for equality.
Women have made immense contributions to society. From the fields of politics and science to sports and entertainment, countless women have left their mark on our world. While some are well-known today, others remain unsung heroes who deserve recognition for their achievements.
When Adi asked me to write this piece, I was ecstatic. The feminist in me came out in full force; ideas racing through my head. I was going to write about my ‘hardships’ as a woman in today’s world and how hard it is to be a working mom. But then as I sat down to write, I realized that my story and my hardships are not any better or worse than any woman’s.
Here’s a look at a few women whom I consider the best of the best; the works of these women continue to have an outsized impact on our lives.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist celebrated for her romantic fiction and social commentary. Her most famous works include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Northanger Abbey, all of which have been adapted into feature films and TV series. Austen is credited with pioneering the development of the modern novel, as she used free indirect discourse to explore the inner lives of her characters. Her novels also employed irony to critique conventions of the early 19th century British society such as arranged marriages, classism and patriarchy. Today, she remains one of the most beloved authors in the world with her books inspiring countless modern adaptations, stage plays and literature courses around the globe.
Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) was an American aviation pioneer known as “Lady Lindy.” In 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland. In addition to being an aviation history-maker, Earhart was also a noted feminist and writer who actively fought for women’s rights throughout her life. She is remembered as a hero of the 20th century and remains an inspirational figure for budding female aviators today.
A contemporary figure is Alison Bechdel (1960-present), an American cartoonist and graphic novelist. She is best known for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran for 25 years between 1983 and 2008.
Bechdel’s work has long championed LGBTQ+ rights and pioneered a genre of LGBT literature. In addition to her comics, she has appeared in talk shows and panels promoting queer representation in the media. Bechdel’s influence extends beyond the literary world; in 2014 she was included on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world. Her now famous Bechdel Test is used to measure gender bias in movies and helped create conversation about the lack of substantial female characters in story lines.
A Change of Perspective
I’d like to share with you how Adi challenged my perspective on gender parity by asking me to put some thought into this subject.
I grew up with a father that was very much a good ‘ol boy. Women (and children) had one place in the world. That was not in leadership or even making money. We were simply pawns in a man’s game. I always hoped if I tried hard enough, he’d change his perspective. I worked summers washing windows at an old three-story building in my hometown, alongside my father and my brother. I did whatever I could to bust my ass and prove that I could do it too. I learned to drywall, run the saw, use the nailgun, and work hard. We were punished for taking breaks, for not wanting to do chores after working all day, and sometimes even for just leaving our dirty shoes by the door. No matter what we did, it wasn’t good enough. He still believed girls would never amount to much. That painful slight and lack of belief became a chip on my shoulder and motivated me to become successful. I wanted to prove him wrong. “Anything you can do, I can do better,” from the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun (though long before my time) became a motto for me. With my mom as my biggest cheerleader to prove him wrong, I went out on my own at about 16 years old and never looked back.
Later I was fortunate to work for an organization of all women. 100% owned by women, run by women, powered by women — really strong, successful women who are all role models to me today. Though we never considered ourselves feminists, we certainly celebrated every aspect of girl power! Here’s the kicker —- our clients were 80% men working at engineering firms, manufacturing facilities, and in the agriculture business. I had to learn to appeal to men (without using my sexuality) and “speak their language.” I learned to use the word think instead of feel to convey my opinions. I learned that men’s brains process information differently than women’s brains. We’d say we were ‘boots in the dirt’ kind of chicks, when really, we wanted to wear high heels. I learned to do what women were supposed to do to fit into a man’s world and we often found ourselves striving to act like the men we were so desperately trying to separate ourselves from. And as I think back about all I learned, I ask myself…why?
Many of the skills I learned furthered my emotional intelligence. But why did it have to be all about conforming to the social norms of men? Why wasn’t it just about learning to better understand humans?
A quote from Marilyn Monroe that resonates with me is:
“I don’t mind living in a man’s world. As long as I can be a woman in it.”
Changing the way women speak, think, and process emotions doesn’t lead to equality. It further reinforces conformity. Diversity and equality are important concepts essential to promoting a healthy, productive society. Diversity asks us to recognize and value the unique qualities of every person, regardless of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or any other characteristic. Equality demands that everybody has access to the same opportunities and resources so that they can reach their full potential.
I believe that by surfacing and listening to different ideas, perspectives, and viewpoints we will all learn from others and make better decisions. I want to use International Women’s Day to acknowledge and pay respects to the profound contributions of women (past and present.) And to remember that I am a woman every day. I can celebrate other women every day. And so can you.
No matter our gender, we are all human.
Really awesome humans. In a world that truly celebrates equality, it doesn’t matter what your pronouns are. What matters is the difference you make and the lives you change just by being you.
In my time working with Adi and the Journey CxO Community, I have met many smart, accomplished and interesting people. I have relearned how being open to new and differing perspectives truly does lead to better outcomes.
I want to continue to celebrate you all, and learn from you all. Every day.
For what it’s worth…I am human, just like you. But when I achieve something, I am also reminded that I am a woman (an older version of that girl my father didn’t believe would achieve much). And that’s pretty extraordinary, too.
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