Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I spent it wondering how to write about it–without sounding like I’d been body-snatched by Debbie Downer.
(Why? Well, I’m not especially interested in beating a dead horse, but by now you know the score: we’re paid less and underrepresented. Child care and health care are dismal. Our ranking in the World Economic Forum’s international gender equality ratings is an appalling 31st. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but did you hear a single peep about it being International Women’s Day? Did you know that in China, Russia, Vietnam, and Bulgaria, IWD is a HOLIDAY? I wouldn’t have minded sleeping in. After all, sleep is a feminist issue!)
I think more than the inequities that still exist, though, what bothers me is the denial. The feeling that: We don’t need a Women’s Day in the United States! The women’s movement? Been there, done that! Equality? We’re so there. Because, obviously, we’re not. Consider this, from a HuffPo piece written by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and executive director of Momsrising.org:
A friend called me today, sharing her delight that her 10 year-old daughter came down to breakfast and wished her a “Happy International Women’s Day!” We wondered how her daughter knew about this important day without her mom telling her, and shared some happy thoughts about our strong, growing, young daughters.
Then the conversation turned: We simultaneously realized that both of our daughters think of International Women’s Day as something we celebrate for women in other countries, not our own.
We wondered, why?
My friend thinks it’s because: “There’s a real disconnect between our desire as parents to tell our girls that they can do anything they want to do in life, and the reality of the challenges that they will later face as women in our own nation.”
This disconnect isn’t unique to my friend and her daughter, it’s a disconnect that we see with policy makers, news reporters, and business leaders as they fail to recognize inequality that women still face in the United States.
The problem is that without recognition, we can’t get to solutions. And solutions are indeed needed.
They are indeed–and, as we’ve mentioned oh, once or twice before, it seems to me that the way in which we frame the issues for which solutions are needed is precisely why there aren’t any. We make them personal (find your own work-life balance much? make time for sleep? follow this man’s three steps to happiness?), and in doing so, we lighten the load, trivialize the deeper issues, and take the burdens off the institutions and put them squarely onto our own backs.
Oh, it was a sad sight. Eating toast (toast! the world’s perfect food!) on the morn of the 100th International Women’s Day, Debbie Downer was threatening to have me for breakfast. (Even despite the fact that, the night before, Kathryn Bigelow had just scored the Oscar’s top two honors–becoming the first female to be named Best Director. The only one… In 82 years… Ack! Do you see how Debbie does it?) But then, a ray of sunlight, in the form of a tweet from Hollee Temple. She thought I’d like the guest post on her blog. And guess what? I did!
First, the intro:
Today we welcome Lisa Tannenbaum to our blog to discuss how she remodeled her job to fit her notions of motherhood — and managed to get promoted with her job-sharing partner. Inspiring!
And inspiring it is. For several reasons. Here’s a taste:
Both Sandy (Tannenbaum’s job-sharing other half) and I have young children; we wanted to maintain our careers with Deloitte, a company to which we are very loyal and from which we have felt that loyalty returned. Deloitte is consistently recognized as a fantastic work environment for women, initiating many creative and innovative work/life balance programs, many of which have become the industry standard… Since we began this endeavor [in 2004], we have become an internal role model for how people can be successful, and even continue to progress, in their careers with such an arrangement.
Did you say “progress”?
There were certainly skeptics… questions about whether our arrangement worked efficiently on all levels. At one point, we actually believed that this job-share may have been a roadblock in our ability to advance. Rather than abandoning the concept, we coordinated our resumes together, posted for jobs together, and even interviewed together. It took a very strong and proven performance history, respected advocates, and finally, as with any workplace innovation, a leap of faith from leaders at Deloitte, but, alas, the answer was ultimately that we could move up the hierarchy–together!
We were promoted in our job-share arrangement to a managerial position. Six months into this new role, things are going very well as we continue to prove ourselves capable of efficiency, imagination, leadership, and teamwork on a daily basis. Trailblazing this arrangement together to a new group of leaders, learning the unique skill set of job-share management, and creating a path for the next generation of career-oriented mothers in the organization is wildly exciting and fulfilling–both as an employee of Deloitte AND as a mom.
Consider Debbie down for the count! And consider this my wish for you, on this very special Day After International Women’s Day: may you find personal success, and the internal strength and the external support you need to make the life you want to live possible. And may your success help to pave the way for the ladies that’ll come after you.
And may your optimism render your own personal Debbie Downer toast.