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International Women's Day: Let's Celebrate Women!

Today is March 8th. People all across the world are celebrating International Women's Day. In some countries, it's is a nationally observed holiday. In America it is not.
However, I am celebrating this holiday because I am in favor of all opportunities to promote women and the interests of women. And I am using it as the basis of my post for today.

Until I got to college I never really viewed being a woman as being a part of a political group with unique interests and needs. Other than biological functions, I never considered that being a woman might influences my choices and experiences. In college, even though I never took a Women’s Studies class, I became educated. We had a serial rapist on my campus when I was a student. I became afraid to walk around by myself. I could no longer afford to ignore that being a woman’s different.

Becoming a professional woman provided me with a more comprehensive education. I learned that professional life for women and men can be different. Before joining the professional workforce I thought working would be like school and that my reward would be a reflection of my effort and performance. I have since learned that other factors also influence success in the workplace.

It never occurred to me that my gender would cause me to be excluded from lunches, social events, and outings to strip clubs. Indeed it never occurred to me that going to a strip club would be something that professional men might do for “client development”. I never fathomed that my little sister’s her former colleagues would take her to lunch at a mud wrestling bar where waitresses would serve wearing lingerie bearing their nipples. I never imagined that such obviously unprofessional behavior would be condoned in the workplace. I could not have predicted the professional consequences such behavior would have for me, my sister and for a lot of other women.

I remained naïve even after attending law school. However, practicing at a law firm taught me more about the various ways that being a woman can influence ones career than I have time to share.

Since becoming a mother I have been amazed and humbled by the strength of women and the commitment to their families. However, as a professional working mother, I have recognized many opportunities in corporate America for women to become more engaged.

Some women leave the workplace to become stay-at-home moms because they believe that is best for their families. Other women are driven out of corporate America. They become stay-at-home moms because the demands of working and caring for their families became too much. They were expected to be the primary caregiver at home and their workplace provided little flexibility. Those situations are huge losses for both the companies and the women. Companies pay a high price for turnover. They pay financially and in lost efficiency. The women lose economically from the loss of income, lose momentum on their career path, and lose the satisfaction that can come with being a working mother. Not only is that not a win-win, everybody loses. But it happens every day.

I believe that we should support women who stay home by choice. However, I think that we should all be outraged when women stay home because they believe that the workplace is hostile to mothers. I think that we should all protest when women are overwhelmed by household duties because their husbands and partners believe that everything within the confines of the home is “woman’s work” even though everybody eats, everybody gets clothes dirty and everybody uses the dishes.
On this International Women’s I hope that we all pause and re-commit ourselves to making this world a better place for women— the streets, the workplace, the home. Indeed, that will improve the world for men too.

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