My role as “woman” and “mother” has been unconventional.
I still remember the terrified look on my mother’s face when I walked on stage to accept my 2nd grade blue honor roll award in a big white t-shirt that fell down to my knees, baggy long skater shorts, and a backwards Giants hat. A tomboy at heart, I struggled to understand why my friends loved wearing flowery dresses with tights and playing tea party. You could usually find me climbing a very tall tree.
I was stubborn in my offbeat ways and still, to this day, hate the colour pink. As I reached my adult years I continued to express this “non-traditional” portrayal of a woman. I never longed for a family and stated on many occasions I would never get married – but if I did, my husband would take MY last name.
And then, all of a sudden like a wrecking ball crashing over a lit up stage, life happened. There I was, holding a tiny 7lb alien creature in my arms.
Motherhood caught me by surprise, and to be honest, it broke me – emotionally and physically. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else even though I worked so hard to be successful in my career and at home. The balance was bitter and blurry, and I started to hate my “new self” – feeling inconvenient to my co-workers and guilt-ridden by my family.
I was trying so hard to be the person I was before that I couldn’t see the new strength I had now.
I became more determined and passionate than ever before, and while I endured a few bumps along the way, I gained a heart of gold. I’m now more concerned with what makes me me rather than what makes other people like me.
Today I can stand tall and say I am proud to be a woman, and a mother.
I am so thankful for the achievements of the smart, strong women and men who have fought for us over the last 100 years. Thanks to the fire in their bellies, a woman’s role in society today has changed for the better.
But there is still more we can do to help. Like my story, there are many others who find it difficult to return back to work after the dramatic transition into motherhood. Research company OnePoll, found that one in nine women do not return to work after maternity leave.
I’m not surprised.
A successful return to work requires a strong support system at work and at home, flexible, collaborative and understanding managers and co-workers, and if you’re lucky, breast-pumping facilities on-site.
But through the stories of close friends in the U.S. and the UK, and my own experience of course, I have gathered we are miles away from this utopia.
This highlights the real problem, due to a lack of care and support from businesses we are losing skilled, ambitious and knowledgeable women which is perhaps why there are only 21% of women in senior roles in the UK (Source: Grant Thorton UK).
We need to champion a more open, honest and supportive culture within the workplace to allow women to progress in their careers. We are stunting the growth of not only the women, but also the business by not pushing for a more flexible workplace and drive a more diverse leadership group.
Researchers at UC Davis, California found that companies with the highest percentage of women execs and board members had a 74% higher return on assets than the overall group of companies surveyed.
It’s quite straight forward, more women at the top equals more revenue for the business. It just makes plain business sense.
But I’m not going to sit here safely behind my laptop screen and blame businesses all over the world for being lazy and naive. I know the problem also starts with us.
In my own home there is this eerie feeling that my partner should be making more money than me. And when I started making as much as my partner, things got slightly awkward. I could feel an air of insecurity start to lurk like the smog creeping over the city of LA. Although my partner is a feminist at heart, societal expectations got the best of us.
We need to change our perceptions about men and women as we are still playing our traditional roles.
So, while today is most certainly about women, the fight for gender parity is also about men. The role they play in society, the workplace, and at home is equally as important.
We want to get to a place where all men feel comfortable with the idea that they could be a Stay-at-Home-Dad and where all women can confidently walk into work with a breast-pump in one hand and a workbook in the other without one person batting an eye-lid.
Now that sounds like equality to me.
While I am truly grateful for the women who have put their lives on the line to get to where we are today and I hope that soon we will finally be in a world that supports women and men equally.
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