I have worked in a male dominated industry for over 11 years. Over this period of time, I have gotten so used to being the only female in meetings and on teams that I hardly notice.Earlier this week when someone sent out a group email and addressed it to “Abi and Gentlemen”, I had to pause and chuckle to myself a little (ok maybe it was more like a snicker under my breath :)). In that moment, I felt some pride in being the disrupter of what could have been a discussion among just the “gentlemen”.
Women have been fighting for a long time for more representation at the top levels of leadership and while we have come a long way in taking on leadership and executive roles, I still see few to no females in those leadership roles that I might aspire to.
Time Magazine recently asked women to write in to tell stories of personal gender barriers experiences and then published several in a feature called “Because I Was a Girl, I Was Told … “ All the stories were moving. Some I could personally relate to. However, the most impactful story were two where their experience with gender inequality came from their own parents.
In one story, a women was told by her father that “women needed a career only until they got married, and nursing and teaching were the only things girls could do” in an attempt to discourage her from pursuing a career as a forest ranger or physician. Another story was from a woman who overheard her parents discussing whether it was appropriate to give a girl a chemistry set after she asked for it for her 9th birthday.
While we are quick to prepare our children for how brutal the world outside our homes can be, It is important to be very aware of how our well intentioned interactions inside the home impact our daughters as well. Every thing counts; the toys you buy, the colors of said toys (not everything has to be pink), the biases you correct (“no, that’s not just a boy thing”), the dreams you give her permission to have (“you can do anything you put your mind to”), the encouragement to explore ( “no, its too hard for you”), and most importantly the unconditional love you give.
Being a leader is not just a boy thing. Recent studies have shown that women-led companies perform three times better than other Fortune 1000 companies run by men. The world desperately needs the leader you are raising; your love and support can help her realize how important her impact can be in any field she chooses!