This weekend we celebrate Women’s International Day and it happens to also be my birthday 🙂 I had the privilege of being raised by a strong woman who not only explained to me about how important this day is to remind all of us that women should be equal to men, but she also kept telling me as a young girl that although I would be judged, belittled and even threatened because of my gender, I should stand up for myself and persevere. She told me not to be afraid of confrontation, to speak my mind, to fight for what I wanted and never forget that all biases against females were NOT my fault and I should work hard to debunk some myths about what “being a woman” is. She set a great example to me by being a strong and hard working woman herself.
I embraced a technical career in 1992 after graduating from college, with a combination of passion (loved math) and pragmatism (needed the money), not knowing that when the computer sciences started, women were leading this area in the beginning of last century! In the 90s the scenario was very different – sexual harassment was very common, and women had to fight really hard to be taken seriously. Times changed, the world has slowly improved, but gender inequality is real, as is gender bias. Every woman has a story to tell; the majority of us has faced sexism or harassment at some point of our lives.
Many years ago, in my 20s, I noticed that not all young women and girls have mothers / parents that reinforce that they can pursue any career they love. I then promised myself that I would be the reassurance for my girlfriends, for their daughters, for my nieces. I would not only try to be an example, but the woman that says YES YOU CAN! and encourage other women.
I also committed to be someone who tells her male friends and family that they need to step up and change as well – recognizing and treating women as equals is only the first step. Gender equality is important to men too, so they can stop being belittled for having “feminine” tastes, looks, voices, professions. While “being like a men” is considered a quality and “being like a woman” is considered a weakness, everybody is losing.
In 2019 I started a new journey that is very significant being a woman – we moved to the USA, because of my work. My husband put his career on hold (temporarily, but still…) to take care of our son’s adaptation to the new country, school and language. The only reason I can work full time in a leadership position in a big company, having a 9 years-old boy, is because my husband is willing to support my career decisions and not only share all parenting activities with me but taking over most of it to himself. His burden is not light, and on top of all that it takes to raise a child, he also feels the weight of being a “stay at home father” — parenting his own kid is perceived as “a woman’s job”.
How women can aspire to be CIOs, CEOs, CTOs, presidents, if they don’t have support from the father of their kids, when the aging parents are always the responsibility of the daughters?
The world has changed, and it will change more and faster. Some countries and cultures move faster than others, but all around the globe women want the same: respect, equality and opportunity. Our gender doesn’t limit us, it’s just a part of what we are as human beings, and we bring a lot of value to the game if people let us play. Men also deserve to have the right to be treated kindly, to be vulnerable, to take care of themselves; they don’t need to be the strong ones all the time.
For this WID in 2020, I want to say to my female colleagues and friends: PERSIST, and support other women. We are changing the world 😊
And I want to say to my male colleagues and friends: engage in the gender equality effort and start enjoying the beauty of a more balanced world. You will win, the next generations will win.
An equal world is a better world for all.