This week I decided to do something a little different. In one of my classes we had to give a public narrative and I’ve decided to share mine. A “public narrative is a leadership art through which we translate values into action: engaging heart, head, and hands.” Anyways. I hope you enjoy mine.
About a week ago, while I was at the park with my young cousins, one of them, Sarah, said that girls can’t do everything boys can do. Sarah is three years old, an age where you still believe in unicorns, Santa Claus and that you can grow up to be a tree. Ever since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said because it makes me incredibly sad.
It makes me sad because I’ve felt like Sarah before. I’ve been discouraged due to my gender and not done things I wanted to because of it. The turning point for me, however, came when I was in a meeting of about 15-20 people during an internship. Every single person was male except me, the intern, and one secretary. In that moment, I decided I would not let my gender discourage me. I knew it was going to be hard, and it has been. It’s exhausting and demoralizing. But at the end of the day, I know that I need to stay strong to be an example that Sarah deserves.
I’m sure every single one of us has felt discouraged before. But imagine that at three years old you no longer believe you can do anything you want because of your gender. Think of yourself, your mother, your sister, your friends, your future daughter, and the potential that goes to waste because of nothing more than society systematically discouraging women.
Now, I’ll be the first one to admit, sometimes these gender inequalities feel insurmountable. They’re so deeply ingrained, what can you do, what can I do? I challenge you to think about your actions. In groups, men often talk over women. This action says that what women have to say is less important than what men have to say. Even if you don’t mean it, remember your actions speak louder than words. So I challenge you to pause……… and listen to what the women around you have to say.
But that’s not enough, this system needs to be changed from the start. For all those of us who want to fix these inequalities, I urge you to think especially hard about your actions around children. Encourage girls to play with cars, use critical thinking, and speak their minds. Encourage boys to play with dolls, show emotion, and be quiet if they want to be. Stop using the word “bossy.” Don’t comment on a girls’ appearance, comment on how smart she is, how well reasoned her arguments are, or how hard she works. We all play a part in shaping the next generation, what do we want it to look like?