Got Twelve Bucks?

Today the leader of a Nigerian terrorist group called Boko Haram (translated means Western education is sinful) boasted that he had the 200 girls that were kidnapped from a Nigerian school on April 15 and he was going to sell them. “Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his will.” I choke on these words as I type them.

According to news sources some of the girls, all teenagers, have already been sold for twelve dollars each. I wasn’t aware the going rate for a lifetime of degradation, sexual slavery and total servitude was a mere twelve bucks. A mere twelve bucks and they get the dubious honor of being subservient to the needs and desires of the men who “own” them for the rest of their lives. They are not viewed as human beings but merely property to be used at the command and pleasure of their “owners”.  And I also learned today quite by surprise that the determination of who is slave and who is owner is made by men interpreting the teachings of Allah. Allah deems men worthy so women have no say. Women are only needed to quench the sexual desires of men and to ensure the survival of the species, at least according to these supreme all-knowing men.

Let’s face it. This has nothing to do with Allah. I find it hard to believe that any supreme being would create life for the purpose of denigrating it. Human beings are human beings regardless of whether they have penises or vaginas. They should all have the same rights and privileges and that includes, most importantly, the right to be educated.

Heaven forbid that we educate women. What will they want next?  We don’t need women to be able to read, we don’t need them to be able to think. We don’t need them to be able to lead. All we need is for them to drop on their backs and spread their legs wherever and whenever a man sees fit and willingly succumb to his every need. Oh and yes I almost forgot, there are those other menial things like doing the laundry, preparing the meals and taking care of the numerous amount of children born, not out of love, but out of sheer sexual perversion. Men can’t be bothered with those trivial things. Men have more important things to do like raping, pillaging and killing those who do not agree with their beliefs. And all in the name of Allah. How convenient to have God on your side. 

At the time those 200 girls were kidnapped they were taking their exams – how ironic. These young women were trying to better themselves in order to lead more productive lives. But as it’s been since the dawn of time, the stronger (and I use that term loosely) exert their will over the weaker. It’s all about the powerful imposing their will to get what they want when they want it regardless of the impact on others. And sadly they’re using the name of God to do it.  

We’d like to believe that these atrocities only existed in the Stone Age. Don’t kid yourself. They still run rampant throughout the world. It’s just easier to believe they don’t in a country like ours where women have more rights than almost anywhere else. And even those rights had to be legislated and negotiated over time. But let’s do a reality check here. In this instance we’re not talking about grown women. These are teenage girls. How terrorized they must feel, how frightened they must be. Don’t forget, they’re still children themselves. But unfortunately they possess the sexual characteristics of a woman and that’s all these men need to sell them. 

To subject teenage girls to this type of treatment is an atrocity not all-together different than the plight of black Americans in this country or the inhumane treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. So this should be front and center in the news today, right? Think again. Today the news is focusing on the Supreme Court ruling on prayer, the crisis in the Ukraine and the plunging value of Target stock. I guess 200 girls sold into slavery is not worthy of major coverage. Their families are now turning to social media to give this situation the prominence it so rightly deserves.  And the word is spreading. Too bad mainstream media doesn’t see the importance of all this.  And why should they? After all, it’s only 200 teenage girls we’re talking about, right…

My heart goes out the families of these young girls and I pray for their safe return. I also pray that I’ll live to see the day when human rights and equal rights are truly the norm. Some believe we’ve reached justice and equality for women. I say we haven’t even scratched the surface. Open your eyes people and take in the harsh truth. And so it will continue to be until the rights of women become a global priority.

 

 

 

 

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Is It Still A Man’s World…

The recent vilification of Paula Deen has me in a conundrum. I’m not sure how I feel about it, nor am I sure what is right or wrong in this case. One thing I definitely know is that the use of derogatory language against any gender or race is wrong. We are not living in the dark ages anymore. Some of the words that were carelessly thrown around a generation ago are totally unacceptable now and those using them should be fairly tried in the court of public opinion and punished equally right? Oh, really…

Watching the news and reading all of the recent articles regarding Paula Deen makes me wonder if we, as a society, are really being fair and judging each and every transgression of this kind similarly. I’m not so sure we are. A friend of mine recently posted something on her Facebook page that gave me pause. She reminded me that someone like a Rush Limbaugh could call a woman a slut on the airwaves and still have his job. And what about Eliot Spitzer who hired a prostitute while Governor of New York and although forced to resign due to the scandal is rewarded by being hired by CNN as a political analyst. Today the word bitch dominates the airwaves and no one seems to mind.

Paula Deen

Paula Deen

But let’s go back in time a little bit as well, shall we. John F. Kennedy who was assassinated 50 years ago was a notorious womanizer and had the support of the press who kept quiet about his philandering.  We now think of JFK as one of our all time beloved presidents and his “indiscretions” take a back seat to his accomplishments. His brother Teddy drives his car off a bridge after a “party” leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to drown in the back seat while he swims away and, oh yes, just happens to forget to call the police until the next morning – must have been the chill in the water. Teddy walked away uncharged and continued to be elected to Senate. True this incident probably cost him the presidency, but being a lifetime senator is by no means any type of harsh punishment. And when he died they proclaimed him to be the negotiator extraordinaire able to reach across the aisle and gain non-partisan support. What a great guy! I wonder if Mary Jo still thinks so. What you say, that was so many years ago and times have changed. You mean times like the same era in the Deep South where buses, bathrooms and schools were segregated and white folk used the “N” word as a matter of course. The same era when Paula Deen grew up. I’m sure she used the “N” word just like everyone else she knew. And she admits to using it. But she also admits not having used it for years.

We are all products of our environment. We learn from those around us and we strive to fit in. By doing that we gain the strength and confidence to become who we choose to be as we mature. But we all have a starting point that none of us chooses. We evolve based on conscious decisions we make over time and that should be the focus of how we are judged. I cannot pinpoint on a timeline when Paula Deen quit using the “N” word or if she chose to believing it was wrong versus succumbing to social pressure. She admits it, she did it and she hasn’t for years. And her punishment, the Food Network decides not to renew her contract, Smithfield drops her as a spokesperson, Target drops her product line, Wal Mart and Home Depot follow suit and on and on and on…

Is this fair? I’m not so sure. And yet, all may not be lost for poor Paula. Maybe Rush Limbaugh will give her a job or she’ll get hired by CNN. If we’re to judge equally it seems only right. Or is it? What do you think?

Equality doesn’t necessarily mean equal…

I’ve blogged about the fact that early on I lived a very sheltered life. I will never forget when I learned that homosexuality existed. I was a Freshman in college (yes, that’s right) and being a Theatre major I was sitting in the audience of the main stage facility watching the rehearsal of a scene that I was not in. One of the actors on stage was a super gorgeous guy, and I remember sitting next to a fellow actor, a young black man, and remarking on just how gorgeous I thought he was. He turned to me and said, “I know, we’re lovers.” I almost fell off of my chair. The idea of same sex love making had never occurred to me, ever! I couldn’t fathom the concept.

I remember going back to my dorm room and calling my mother asking her if she new that homosexuality existed. I was surprised at her matter-of-fact answer and when I asked her why she never told me, she simply said that the subject just never came up. That’s it, cased closed. So, know I knew about it. The next step was to determine how I felt about it.

Initially I was conflicted. As I mentioned earlier, the thought of same sex couples never crossed my mind. I was genuinely heterosexual there was no doubt. But how would I feel if someone judged me, persecuted me, denied me rights simply because I was heterosexual. I certainly would not like that. And what about my fellow actors? I liked them before I knew this about them, should I not like them now? The decision was easy to make. Who was I to judge anyone.

And now, so many years later, we are debating whether same sex couples can constitute a marriage and whether they should be afforded the rights and benefits that marriage creates. Equal rights under the law is the foundation of our constitution. And yet it all boils down to how human beings define equality. For years we defined it by white males. Then in 1963 with the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, we determined that we would “allow” equal rights to other races and we would “allow” equal pay for equal work to women and well as men (a right we are still struggling to achieve). Now in our infinite wisdom we feel that we have the right to define what marriage is and who we will “allow” to have marital rights and benefits. And although these decisions have been a long time coming, the mere fact is if we are truly the land of the free these rights should not have to be legislated in the first place. But we have given away the power to define equality under the law to human beings and what winds up happening is equality becomes defined by social or religious beliefs. The last time I heard, our founding fathers worked diligently to ensure the separation of church and state in running of our country.  But it is playing out in this debate big time, and it makes me wonder if we’re imposing the same bigotry on a segment of our population that we fought so hard to overcome in 1963.

Thank goodness the debate continues and it appears to have an unstoppable momentum. And like Roe v. Wade, it will probably be debated ad infinitum. But Roe v. Wade is the law, whereas same sex marriages are not. Let’s continue to fight until it’s the law so once again we can unequivocally state that our constitution truly supports equal rights under the law.

This Is Not About Who Is Better

As more photos surface showing inappropriate behavior on the part of Congressman Weiner (and I can’t help but chuckle at the irony of his last name), I saw an article posted online regarding whether this debacle was a victory for women leaders. I’m not sure why it has to boil down to victory and defeat, but I guess in our society that is how we measure success.

The fact is that both men and women in power have the ability to be corrupt – you just hear about men’s indiscretions more and more. I do not doubt that there are some women in power who abuse it, but one of the main reasons why we do not here about it as much is because we have not reached a state of gender equity where power resides in this country. Women only represent 17% of the positions in Congress and less than that in positions in the Presidential cabinet – and that is where the power exists in how this nation is governed. Less than 2% of women hold positions as CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies – again, where the power exists in the business community. Women have made better strides in state government, although it is now thought that these positions that have become lesser paying are becoming less desirable by men.  Where women have made the greatest strides is in the field of Education with women now leading such prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford.

You cannot effect change unless you have not only a seat at the table but also somewhat of a critical mass. Lone women who break through the ranks often speak of the challenge of being recognized because they are the only one in the group and often are dismissed when they participate. And when they are asked to participate it is often in a way that can appear to diminish their stature, such as taking minutes or being in charge of refreshments. A colleague of mine who became the first woman to receive a doctorate in Natural Resources Management at her University was recently asked in her first faculty meeting (she was the only woman in a group of all men) if she wouldn’t mind taking notes for the meeting. When she did not reply, which created a very pregnant pause, another man uneasily stepped up and agreed to do the minutes.

Just this past week a colleague of mine went to a dinner commemorating the 40th anniversary of the National Partnership for Women and Families, formerly known as the Legal Defense Fund. The organization has played a key role in moving forward issues related to women and families both nationally and globally. She was sitting at a table with a “corporate type” who said to her that he was a strong advocate for promoting women, but not women who had families because they had greater distractions and could not put in the hours. When she challenged him on this, he quickly said that he would do the same for men who had families. This bias is still very prevalent in the workplace and until we have greater understanding and workplace policies that support furthering both women and men with families, we will continue with lack of gender equity in positions of power. And although I say for both women and men the truth is that women, much more than men, are viewed as the ones ultimately responsible for the family. Consequently, men are considered less distracted and able to put in more hours at work resulting in more men getting these promotions even though they also have families.

So maybe this latest farce with Rep. Weiner is a victory for women – let’s get more women in these positions and see if they wind up doing the same things. Until that happens we won’t really know. And I know I will raise some hackles on this statement, but somehow I doubt it.

News Article: Weiner scandal – A Victory for Women Leadership?

A Mother’s Day Tribute

I’m sitting on my deck right now enjoying the warm Spring sunshine, watching the birds feverishly build their nest, smelling the lilac perfume in the air and desperately missing my mother. This time of year, Spring, sunshine, trees budding – the time of growth and renewal, and their is a part of me that is somewhat empty.

My mother, Euphrasia (yes that was her real name) Drabik died in November of 2006 of lung cancer. The doctor’s said she must have had it for quite some time but once she was finally diagnosed she was given three to six months to live and she lived for five. When she was younger she was fiercely independent, one of the first mother’s to go to work with young children still at home. She rose up in the ranks of the male dominated banking business and became the manager of one of their largest departments, the charge card division. I remember my mother saying that one day a plastic card was going to replace money – they were already in the process of developing what we now know as a debit card. She was beautiful, very religious and very self confident.

She and my dad were married for 57 years – and no, they were not the perfect couple. They certainly had their ups and downs. But they managed to live through the bad times and their relationship got stronger and stronger as the years went on. My father was seven years older than my mom and when he turned 65 he wanted to retire and move to Florida. My mom was still going strong working at the bank, but my dad was firm in his resolve and my mother retired at 58 and moved with my dad to Clearwater. There they had the home of their dreams and over 20 years of an active and healthy retired life. My dad suffered an injury in 1996 that made him quadriplegic. She took care of him for 18 months in that condition until he died in February of 1998.

After my dad died, I saw a lot of changes in my mother. Once the confident go-getter, she was now fearful and insecure. She lost some of that self-starter quality that I so admired in her. I guess when you lose someone who has been a part of your life for so many years a part of you dies with them.

A few years after my father’s death, I finally talked her into moving to Colorado where she spent the last three years of her life. I was so grateful for that time. For most of my adult life she lived in Florida and I lived in Chicago and we usually saw each other once a year around the holidays. We talked on the phone once a week and for many years she was a voice on the other end of the phone.

We crammed a lot into the three years that she was here – we went on trips, went out to breakfast, went to movies, saw theatrical productions – we did a lot together. And then one day as I was driving to work I called her and she was in tears. She was experiencing terrible pain in her back

and her side. An ambulance trip to the hospital, the diagnosis, home health care, nursing home care and then she was gone.

She never got a chance to sit out on our deck – it was under construction when she became ill. She never got a chance to see the new landscaping – to smell the fragrance of my lilacs, to enjoy the rose bushes. Those all came during and after her illness. But she would have loved them. She would be out here with my right now, enjoying the sunshine and fresh Spring air.

She was a woman from a very humble background who was determined that her daughter would be educated, confident and fearless. When I was a child I so remember her always saying to me that I would get a college education. No woman in her family at that point had, and she knew that in order to be independent and successful that education was the key. We laughed, cried, fought and loved together. She was my rock, my inspiration and my safety net. The apple did not fall far from the tree – I had so many of her qualities that it was scary.

Now there is a part of me that is gone. Time has healed the deep emotional pain I felt when she died and immediately after but time will never completely heal the hole in my heart. But now, when I get sad, I think of her sitting next to me and saying, “Now, Janice Marie – this is not the woman that I raised you to be – strong and confident. So, buck up and keep moving forward. You can do it. I know you can. I raised you to be nothing less.” And all I can say is, yes Mom you did!

So as we approach another Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute in writing to my mother, Euphrasia Drabik. She was beautiful, strong, courageous and smart. And every day, I hope that I will become half of the woman that she was. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Your baby,

Janice Marie

Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like A Man

This famous Henry Higgins lament seems to be validated time and time again in the business world.  As Henry sees it – “Why is thinking something women never do? And why is logic never even tried? Straightening their hair is all they ever do. Why don’t they straighten up the mess inside?”

Men seem to have had this question plague them since the dawn of time. Yesterday when I was in the car with my husband coming back from Home Depot, he turned the radio on to listen to one of his favorite programs – the Tom Martino show. Now this guy does do some good things, but yesterday I was ready to pull him through the radio and beat him upside the head. Because yesterday he was waxing so eloquently on what he termed as the “girl code”.

As Martino put it, the girl code consists of things like: why is it that a girl has to ask permission of another girl to go out with their former boyfriend once they have broken up – or did you know that girls have to get together in even numbers because girls will pair up and someone will be left out – he even had a caller who asked him at what age to girls go to “bitch” school (and then he changed the word to bit because in his infinite wisdom he did not think the word bitch could be used on the air) and of course then they got on the subject of hormones. Now I love a good joke just like everyone else, but to put that drivel on the airwaves when we still have men telling women to “doll up and wipe the dust off of your makeup if you want to get ahead” it totally irresponsible in my mind. When you are looked upon as a public figure and have the ability to influence a great number of people by the medium you use, you have a responsibility to think about what you are saying and how it can perpetuate bad behavior.

And then I was given an article today (the link to it is at the end of my rant) about an eight year study that chronicled the careers of 132 Stanford MBA graduates, more than half of whom were women, to determine their gender related characteristics and how that related to them getting ahead in the workplace. No surprises there since the study found that “although masculine women are seen as more competent than feminine women, they are also seen as less socially skilled and consequently, less likeable and less likely to be promoted.

So, on one end we verbally lambast women for the “girl code” and on the other hand we don’t promote them when they take on more masculine characteristics because they are less likeable. Once again the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome rears its ugly head for women. The study goes on to say that the key to success or failure for women in business is to know when to lay on the aggression, selectively from the start. “You need to be an amateur anthropologist, go into the situation and really pay attention very carefully to what is really happening.”

So I suggest you read the article for yourself. And share it with a male counterpart to really get the conversation going.

When A Woman Should Act Like A Man – CNN Article

 

The Past – Blessing or Curse?

As many of you already know, I will be turning 60 in May and I think, because of that, I have spent a lot of time recently talking about the past. Is that what happens as you get older – you rely on your past to feed your present? I’m not entirely sure but feel it necessary to explore the idea.

This past week I have connected with three entirely new people on Facebook all who played a part of my past at Hiawatha Park. And it was great to hear about their lives to see how they’ve changed and to explore the bonds we made that were built many, many years ago. Those bonds are strong and will never be broken. I think it is safe to assume that they will be carried with all of us for the rest of our lives. But to what degree do these experiences shape your life, and is it healthy to continue to dwell on them?

I teach a class on Women and Leadership and a key component of the class is to look at the history of barriers that women have faced in terms of achieving their leadership goals. I learned over the course of my life that in order to better understand who we are now and how we arrived at the circumstances we face, it is important to go back in history and see what it can tell us. History provides information, understanding, tolerance and context. It helps to create a clearer picture of the present and a better awareness of the reasons for what currently exists. It can play a variety of roles from education to acceptance to peace. It has valuable lessons to teach.

Mount Sanitas - Boulder, CO.

So when I recently took a major voyage down memory lane cruising through the straits of Hiawatha Park, it taught me that many of the things that I like about myself now – that I am proud that I accomplished – that I learned the hard way – were rooted in the work and relationship experiences I had there. And I have to say, I am pretty darned blessed. I’ve had wonderful challenging work experiences in both Ohio and Colorado after leaving Chicago. I was able to retire comfortably at 58 and now spend my time only doing what I love to do. I live in one of the more beautiful areas of our country and I still am able to have that connection to wonderful people and experiences in my past – what more can a person ask for?

So, don’t worry about me. I may be turning 60 but nowhere near ready to be pushing up the daisies. In the words of Conrad Birdie “I got a lot of livin’ to do” and I intend to do it. This recent journey back in time only solidified that in my mind. And it is a journey well taken. I suggest you book your own personal cruise as soon as you can, and I hope it is as  wonderfully memorable. Believe me, it is worth every penny!

Doll Up and Get Ahead

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the Walmart sex discrimination case – not the case itself but whether or not it can be tried as a class action lawsuit. The implications are huge as, more often than not, individuals are powerless against big conglomerates such as WalMart. The only way they can have power is to band together. If it goes to trial as a class action, it puts considerable pressure on WalMart to settle and change. The emotions are running high and the opinions vary. Is this true gender discrimination or merely the sour grapes of a bunch of women who truly did not have what it takes to be good managers? Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

But let’s face it, its not just big bad WalMart. Our society still has deep seeded preconceived notions regarding men and women and although many barriers have been overcome gender equity still does not exist. Take for instance the comment allegedly made by a WalMart manager to the woman in the lawsuit who was seeking a promotion. The advice she was given was to “doll up” and “dust the cobwebs off of your make-up.” I know I can recall many times saying something like that to a man who was asking about promotional opportunities. There is a part of me that is always surprised when I hear these things. I mean, come on – still today? But, I guess I still live in somewhat of a protective bubble.

It does not change the fact that women are still expected to look a certain way, behave a certain way, embrace the feminine ideal and all the while balance the opposing characteristics that typically connote leadership – strength, assertiveness, decisiveness, power and authority. Talk about Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And if you don’t look a certain way, as a woman it can hurt you.

Why does a woman have to look a certain way to prove her competency?  If she is clean and dressed neatly that should be all that matters, right? When this whole “doll up” and “dust the cobwebs off of your make up” thing surfaced yesterday, a friend of mine questioned whether wearing make-up is necessary in order for a woman to be successful. That really got me thinking. I’ve never considered not wearing make-up to work or to job interviews or to social events. It has become just a part of what I do. I never stopped to question why until now.

As a young girl, I looked to Madison Avenue to define beauty. Growing up in the “British Invasion” era, magazines were loaded with pictures of Twiggy (weight and women, a totally separate blog) with heavy eye make up and very distinct upper and lower lashes. Mary Quant was a household name. Make up and fashion were it for me. I remember begging my mother to let me wear make-up. I was probably the last girl of my peers allowed to do so. My mother would not even let me pluck my eyebrows resulting in a truly remarkable Freshman Year class picture of me with one continuous eyebrow. Talk about mortified!

Make up was and still is a part of my life. I’ve never really considered otherwise. So the question of whether make up is necessary to be successful is not an easy one for me to answer. On the surface, I would say yes it is. Our society is so ingrained in how a woman should look and part of that look requires make up. As to whether it is fair or should be part of the “package” that women present, that is a completely different issue. It’s not fair. And I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair and to get over it.

The other side of the coin is one of personal preference. Make up makes me feel better. I want to look good. And if you have ever seen me without make up, I can guarantee you that it is not a pretty sight. I use make up for me, not for others. It may have been ingrained in me for all the wrong reasons, but it is part of who I am and I do not regret that. Wearing make up makes me feel good. It gives me self confidence. And self confidence never hurt on a job interview. But wait, that’s right, I am a woman so don’t be too self confident or it will turn people off…  Oh well.

We’ve come a long way – or have we?

Last week I had the opportunity to do another presentation on Women and Leadership. And although I have done this presentation several times over the past eight years, every time is different and every time I come away with a different perspective.

I have crafted the presentation to cover the history of barriers that women have faced on the pathways to leadership – from not having the right to vote or hold public office by law (repealed in 1920) to not having access to prestigious universities: Harvard (1963), Princeton and Stanford (1969) to the US military academy (1975). I also cover the barrier of the right to equal pay (granted in 1963 as part of the Civil Rights Amendment) and other less overt barriers such as how innate sexual characteristics equate to leadership expectations and the delicate balancing act for women leaders.

I am always amazed at how most of the women I present to are not aware that these barriers existed and were removed less than 100 years ago. I guess when you grow up with access to certain rights and privileges, it is easy to assume that they always existed. And although many barriers have been removed, women still average 80 cents on the dollar to what a man makes, spend on average 1.7 hours doing house work to a every one hour spent by a man, spend 2.1 hours in childcare to every one hour spent by a man and often assume the primary responsibility of caring for her aging parents and quite often her spouse’s parents as well. In a world that still quite often defines success as giving your time primarily to your job, this presents quite a conundrum for a woman trying to achieve her leadership goals.

And although this may sound hopeless, all you have to do is have one young woman sit in on your presentation and get it. I had that last week. She was the room host for my presentation and at the end of it she told the whole room that she had no idea of the barriers women had to overcome and the challenges that still exist in both the domestic and economic realms of their lives. She also did not know that the rules of the game were different for women leaders than for men and she felt energized to know that she was going to go into the working world with information that would help her navigate the personal labyrinth she will face on the road to achieving her leadership goals. She said felt better prepared to work with both men and women.

I had tears in my eyes to say the least. That is what it is all about. It’s not about radicalism or men bashing – its about understanding where you’ve come from, where you’re going, the challenges that still exist and how in your own unique situation you can overcome them. And when you feel like you are helping those just coming of age, that is such a gift. God, I love the education process!

Gender Equity – Myth or Possibility?

The best definition I have ever found regarding the concept of gender equity is “the same opportunities and constraints (for both genders) in full participation of both the economic and domestic realms.”  I will never forget when I first started living on my own and compared my salary to that of certain men in my life. At that time, I never understood why, based on what I made, that I did not get a comparable discount in my expenses. After all if I am making only 66 cents on the dollars (luckily today its moved up to 80 cents on the dollar), then shouldn’t my rent be only two thirds of what a man pays or shouldn’t my grocery bill be only two thirds of what a man pays. Unfortunately that is not the case. So, what’s a girl to do?

To quote a recent article in the Huffington Post written by Heide Grant Halvorseon, PhD., The Trouble With Bright Girls Article “(women) are routinely underestimated, underutilized and even underpaid. Studies show that women need to perform at extraordinarily high levels, just to appear moderately competent compared to male coworkers.”

Ok, ok. I know what you’re thinking. Here is my bra-burning, women’s lib side rearing up its ugly head again. Not really. I have changed my beliefs regarding women’s issues and gender equity from my “we shall overcome” mode to a more “what can each individual woman do to affect the types of changes necessary” mode in my perennial quest to create a more universal environment of gender equity.

The article goes on to suggest a simple change strategy that I feel is important to share. The author surmises that the toughest hurdle we have as women lies within. How we, as women, tend to judge our own abilities more harshly and differently than our male counterparts. Bright young women who identify their self worth and abilities by their intelligence tend to give up more quickly than men when faced with a difficult challenge. They are quicker to self doubt, lose confidence and ergo become less effective learners and problem solvers over time. They start to view difficult challenges as lack of competence (after all, if I am truly smart I should “get this”) versus an energizing prospect.

Don’t we socialize young women to behave and be good little girls and praise them for being smart while we provide young boys, who tend not to sit still and play nice in the sandbox, with feedback to pay attention and try harder.  We tend to create in young women the belief that being smart is something you either are or are not. The article goes on to say that most often, bright girls come to believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice. So “when a problem seemed hard to learn, bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability… and become less effective learners as a result”.

When was the last time you had a female friend who told you they were not going to apply for a job or promotion because they just weren’t ready – they needed more time to develop the skills needed or more time to gain the knowledge necessary to do the job effectively. I doubt that you would ever hear that comment from a man. Men tend to possess confidence both in what they know and don’t know. They don’t get bogged down in where their “flat spots” are, they simply have the confidence to deal with them when the time comes.

I think this is a great lesson for all women. First, lets create more of that “pay attention and try harder ” mentality in young women. Maybe it is not always in their best interest to be the nice, quiet little girl. After all, the world they will grow up in is certainly not nice and quiet. Second, encourage your female friends to take risks and not doubt their skills and abilities. When they say they are not ready, tell them to try anyway and see how far it takes them. With no risk there is no reward.

In my mind, it is simple strategies such as this that, over time, can help achieve greater gender equity. Whether gender equity can ever be totally achieved, well that is another blog for another time.

The Good Wife’s Guide

What every good woman needs to know. The study of gender equity has been a passion of mine for a long time. Ever since I was a young girl, I can remember questioning why my brother and I were treated differently. It all started after Thanksgiving dinner when I was about 9. The whole family had gathered at my grandmother’s house for the big family meal. After the meal, the men paraded into the living room to watch football while the women paraded into the kitchen to do the dishes. That was the year my mom said to me that I needed to go into the kitchen and help with the dishes. I looked at her and said, ” How come Bob (my brother) doesn’t have to?” She had no answer than to say that was just the way it had to be. And that was the beginning of it all for me.

For the past several years I have spoken across the country on the topic of Women and Leadership. My dear friend Kathy and I developed a training program on the subject about eight years ago after she decided to pursue women’s issues as the focus of her masters thesis. (Kathy is now a City Manager and has passed on the “spreading of the word” of Women and Leadership to me.)  Since then, I have continued to be a student of the subject and am always amazed at what I unearth and how it informs my presentations.

There are real reasons, above and beyond perceptions regarding innate sexual characteristics, that women still face some inequities today. Don’t get me wrong, the strides for gender equity have been enormous, but it is important to look to the past to try to understand why some of the stereotypes still exist today. So, for your enjoyment, I am attaching to the blog the first page of an article I found printed in 1955 in Housekeeping Monthly magazine called “The Good Wife’s Guide”. If you want a copy of the full article, just leave a comment with your email address and I will pass it on.

Back in 1955 we were telling women to do things like: take the time to put make-up on and fix your hair before your husbands come home from work, have dinner on the table and ready and the kids taken care of and out of the way, listen to what he has to say because, after all, “what he has to say is more important”, not to get angry with him if he is late or stays out all night, and the best of all is the last line of the article, “After all, a good wife knows her place.” We were teaching women this in 1955 – not all that long ago.

I have shared this article with many women and men and I can tell you that almost always, the women either laugh or shudder and the men say, “Yeah, that’s the way it should be!”  I shared it with a bunch of friends just recently and will tell you that the xerox machine has been on overdrive with them sending copies out to their friends and family. Its a fun read, but it was also what we were telling women regarding their roles in society.

Bottom line, there are real reasons for some lingering issues we face as women, and this article gives us a small glimpse into how, in the not so distant past, we defined the roles of men and women, but it also shows how far men and women have come in changing those stereotypes.