I grew up in a single-parent household. That particular single parent changed a time or two but alas, most of my life I lived and primarily dealt with one of my biological parents. I was and still am the oldest of 6 children as the result of 3 marriages. I fall in to all of the typical birth order statistics. I tend to lead my siblings around, sometimes dragging them against their will. I want everyone to get along and I try to help everyone even when they aren't asking for my help and yes at times I think I know better than they do. I have that personality trait that thinks I have to make everything better or at the very least okay. I always believed that if people left a place, time or thing with a great feeling that everything else in life would be great too. So, as I grew up, I took charge of things. I was/am stubborn, opinionated, driven, loud, inpatient, anxious, empathetic and I expect a lot from just about everyone and everything which means I am often disappointed.
It is with all of these attributed that I attacked life. From the earliest memories I have, I wanted to be a part of the action. My partner in crime, was my slightly younger brother (17 months apart) and if he was going to do it, then so was I. I drove big wheels, played in the mud, told wild and crazy stories and as some family members love to remind me, I even talked FOR my brother as his "official advocate".
I do not know where these personality traits come from. If I look at my parents, sure I suppose they have one or two of the traits between them but neither manifest in quite the same way that I do. It is because of these traits that I always thought I would be more. I don't know if I had identified what more meant but I just knew it was more than what others expected from me and I always felt the need to prove people wrong in how they saw me. Oh yeah, I was that kid.
As I got older, you couldn't tell me nothing. I was head strong, independent and looking for something. In hindsight I realize that I was looking for me. Corny? Maybe, but I was looking for what my purpose was. Some may have said I was a little lost and at times I won't lie, I felt that way but it really was all in search of that purpose, that reason for being.
My path to purpose had a lot of bumps and bruises that we will save for another post. (yikes) The reason I mention this journey and these personality traits is because of an article I read today. The article posed the question "are you holding your daughter back; 5 ways to raise girls to be leaders". I want to spend the next few days discussing this idea. In order to do that I have to tell some of my story.
Let's all admit that in the late 70's and early 80"s there wasn't a whole lot of discussion about raising daughters to be leaders. Yes there was a lot of bra burning or just going bra-less but it was more about the women themselves seeking something for themselves. Today we live in this whole "save our girls" world, which don't get me wrong is great and I am a part of it, no if's and's or but's about it but back then it was just different. (I say this because I want it to be known that there is no judgement in what I am writing about today. They were different times.) Saying all that, I will tell you that I do not ever remember a time in my life where an adult told me "that I wouldn't do something because I was a girl". I was told I couldn't do things because I was ugly or dumb but never because I was a girl. (yes I realize the other ones are horrendous too, but that is a whole other post too.)
I tried out for just about every sport, club or organization in junior high, all in search of my purpose, I never thought about whether or not I could or couldn't because of my gender. I actually tried to be on the wrestling team and now that I think about it, I was told I couldn't do that one because I was a girl and there weren't any other girls for me to compete with which I thought was lame but didn't really give it any thought beyond that. I started work at an early age and always had a very easy time getting jobs, they were all basically awful teenage jobs but they were jobs. In every single job I ever had, I wanted to do more, make more and rise in ranks. It had nothing to do with whether or not I liked the job. It had everything to do with the fact that I just knew I was meant for more. More of what, was really still the question. In the process of this I didn't pay gender any mind. I just kept working and trying to do more, make more and be more.
When my career finally took off is when I started to see it. The quiet comments about a girls attire in the office. The mumbling about a woman in the office who said too much too loudly or "aggressively". I started to pay attention to where people say, what they wore, how they were talked about, promoted and/or rewarded and that is when my eyes opened up. I was hitting a lot of road blocks and suddenly I saw one of the reasons why.
Before you go getting bent out of shape because you think I am blaming all of life's problems on gender bias, I beg you to stop.
that is not what i am saying.
I am simply saying that for the first time in my entire life I noticed gender and the way in which it was dealt with. I still had this mindset that it had nothing to do with me. I would coach my little sisters or the girls and women who worked with and for me what to "look out for" and to be careful about "what they said or did" around certain members of the team and I actually though I was helping them, I thought I was doing a good thing.
Nobody was going to tell me what I could and couldn't do with my career because I was a female, it was me after all, BUT I was ignorant enough to think it applied to other's and that by telling them what to look out for I had done my due diligence.
boy was i wrong.
You see gender bias and sexual harassment, unfair treatment because of gender, race or anything else isn't something we should be "warning people about". It is something we should be speaking up about, talking about and eradicating from our workplaces but so many of us think it has nothing to do with us until...
that one day it happens to you.
to be continued...
Read what happened on that day for me this Friday In the meantime check out the source articles below for some great reading on gender in the workplace.