Written by Emily
Every time I read about women fighting tooth and nail to build women up in their careers (see Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, et al), extending hands and their voices through media megaphones to challenge workforce discrimination and cultural stereotypes, I cheer.
And then I secretly wonder if I’m a number in their statistics– a woman who needs saving, who needs someone else’s voice to lead her away from June Cleaver and towards the “new modern woman.” I hope not!
All good here.
Statistics reveal women aren’t flooding “power” positions in the work world. There are far fewer women CEOs and COOs. Sadly, some people think these statistics mean it’s women who need fixing. Maybe, like LaMotte suggested in her article for Forbes, instead of looking for flaws in women, we need to re-focus and fix the flaws in America’s work habits and corporate identities. But that’s a cultural shift we seem unwilling to make. We want Women to fit in as it is. We don’t want to make accommodations. We prefer to say, “Ladies, you can do this if you just want it enough. Work harder. Work longer. Be assertive.” Instead of: “We provide on-sight childcare, job-sharing opportunities, flexible hours, etc.”
Women are receiving more advanced degrees. Awesome! As it should be. Just because this doesn’t translate to CEO of Google or Facebook, doesn’t mean women are failing. We need well-educated, well-rounded employees, but we also need well-educated, well-rounded mothers who will raise kind, socially-aware, curious, ambitious children. Let’s embrace women who want to learn, to really understand, to create, to question. Let’s embrace women who want to be part of the conversation. And let’s not judge them if they choose to go home to their children or their significant others rather than back to the office (or to the office at all).
Whether intentional or not, even today, our actions and our words suggest that women are passive objects holding positions instead of active, decision-making agents in their own lives. I know so many women who, when faced with the opportunity to take the next step in their careers, have chosen not to. Again, it’s not the women who need fixing. Maybe there’s more flexibility where they are. Maybe they WANT to pick their children up from school or make dinner (GASP!). Maybe they don’t define themselves by their careers at all. Perhaps they define themselves by their volunteer work or hobbies or by any number of other things that don’t provide a paycheck.
First, let’s treat women as individuals and not as a mass audience with the same wants and needs. Let’s ask each woman: “Do you WANT to be the CEO?” If the answer is truly “no,” then that has to be okay. No judgement or downcast eyes. If the answer is “yes,” then let’s don our excavation tools and crack away at the archaic ideals that are holding her back. Go! But while we’re at it, let’s tackle workplace conditions and expectations for all employees, so that people can live balanced lives–not just women, everyone. And let’s not make apologies for wanting a life outside the office.
Let’s fight until we can’t lift our arms so women CAN assume any position they want–and get paid what they deserve to be there. Yes. But we need to stop assuming we understand what Women need or want or how they should behave (in a corporate setting or otherwise).
To me, feminism means allowing women to choose, providing the tools to choose and then giving them the freedom to choose. I didn’t realize feminism was only for women who work outside the home or who strive to be president of a company.
I thought feminists knew the measure of a woman, of a human, is not her status, or the sum of her parts. Well, this feminist knows that. And that is the feminism she’ll teach her girls.