Good morning! Today we are going to change gears a bit. I had a post planned which shared some of my travel essentials that are packed in my carry-on bag and stowed above my head during today’s flight from New York to San Francisco.
But then, as I read Grace’s post, I was inspired to share some thoughts with you all today in honor of International Women’s Day. I am thankful for the strong women in my family who have shaped and inspired me for over 30 years. These four women are radically different from each other and therefore shaped and molded me in their own way.
- Mom – My mother worked night shifts as a neonatal nurse in order to have more time with us while we were growing up. Even though she worked four, ten-hour shifts per week she made my brother and I her priority – never missing a chorus performance, awards ceremony or birthday. She proved that a working mother could also be engaged in her family. I realize now, as I grow older, just how much she sacrificed for us during these years as night shift can wreak havoc on one’s body. Her caring and nurturing heart, helped me develop a softer and more loving side when I needed it most. She also taught me that with hard work, anything was possible.
- My Aunts – Each of my three aunts, while very different and unique, impacted my childhood by helping me see the world and inspiring me to aspire for my dreams. My Aunt Rusty worked in one of the largest investment banks in New York City back in the 1980s when women were rarely seen in this environment. She stood up for her beliefs and rights as a female, exposing me to the trials and tribulations females faced in the professional world. Within our family, my Aunt Annamay is the woman who is impassioned to support those who were born with less. Years of teaching English as a second language in an Arizona border town has allowed her to share with me and my family the difficulties so many people face each day and remind us how much we have in our lives. My Aunt Linda inspired me with her passion for shaping children’s lives as a school principal.
I am not sure whether it is because of the recent press or the fact that I am currently carrying a tiny baby girl who will enter the world in June, but this year more than ever, women’s empowerment has been on my mind. I’ve had many discussions with friends, family, and co-workers about this topic over the past four months. The wonderful thing about these discussions is that I have learned something from each of them. Living in New York City has provided me with the opportunity to become close with friends and colleagues who are very different than me. I love that these differences mean that our views often do not align, nor do the way we share our views with the world. But, this difference in opinion, has also inspired me.
I shared, via an email with a relative recently, that I personally don’t believe that marches, boycotts and countless phone calls to government officials, is the only way to show support for today’s women. I firmly believe that we can each take action in ways that are just as unique as each us. So while I may not have images of me at one of the many Women’s Marches on my social media feed, I thought today was a perfect day to share my thoughts on a few ways any woman can be a strong woman in today’s world while supporting others.
Invest in the future by mentoring young women. This year I have made the decision to invest time mentoring women both personally and professionally. Through my alma mater, The University of Georgia, and my company, Procter & Gamble, I have had the opportunity to work with four incredible women as they forge their paths into the workforce.
Focus on supporting women versus competing with them. I learned a long time ago, that the comparison trap is an evil place to live. Regardless how hard you work to climb the professional ladder, how much you train or how many different filters you layer in Instagram; within moments someone will come along who is climbs faster, gets results faster or receives more likes and engagement. It is easy to fall prey to the numbers game and spend hours comparing yourself but over the past year, I have found that I gain much more by supporting women. Sometimes this means finding happiness for that friend who is promoted faster, celebrating a friend’s half marathon PR after you have a horrible race or sending a quick note to someone who needs it most.
Find your support network and nurture it. Over the past year, as I’ve come in contact with women who feel toxic or don’t support other women, I do my best to create a distance. Whether it is unfollowing them on social media, disassociating with them in the workplace or not meeting with them again, I believe that we are responsible for doing our best to surround ourselves with people who inspire and support us. Some people call this their tribe or girl gang. Whatever the word, find the network of women who uplift you most. I am so thankful to have seven women, whom I call mentors or friends, within my company that inspire me on a daily basis. These women have advocated on my behalf, helped me navigate through office politics and been there to high five and celebrate the wins over the years. Though they live across the country, they have proven multiple times that they are just a phone call, email or text message away. Depending on the size of your company or office, it may be difficult to find many women but even one can make a difference. Once you find them, make sure to nurture the relationship by ensuring it is a two-way street. In my personal life, I have realized that my friend groups and circles have evolved over the years due in part to our time abroad as well as changing life stages. While giving my friend addresses for baby shower invites, I realized that there are women in my life now that have made a huge impact in a short time while others have unfortunately fallen out of the circle. While I don’t harbor negative feelings towards those that I’m no longer close with, I have made a conscious effort to nurture the friendships that are most important to me at this point in my life. This year that has meant traveling to Iowa to see dear college friends, connecting via email, phone, and text with friends who aren’t local and continuing to be the organizer and planner for those that live in New York City.
Remember that your actions speak louder than words. While it is wonderful to advocate for women in ways that are personally meaningful to you, remember that it is not what you write on a Facebook post or piece of paper that speaks the loudest. Instead, it is the way you carry yourself and serve as a role model 365 days a year. Wherever you are, there is someone watching you and she could be an easily influenced teenager or a lost 30-year-old. Just because something isn’t shared on social media doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or come out of your mouth. Let us learn from example and choose our words and actions wisely.
I only hope that my daughter has the opportunity to see and experience the world from a similar vantage point that I did. Realizing from an early age that thanks to the support and hard work by the women who came before her, she can enjoy the right to vote, freedom to choose and equal opportunity school and workplace that allows her to thrive and grow.
I would love to hear your thoughts in honor of International Women’s Day. How do you show your support?