Guest Post by: Kristen Hesano, Future Orthopedic Sales Rep
Growing up, my mother worked as a hair stylist while my father worked as a small business owner and was able to have flexibility in the hours that he worked. I saw my dad in the mornings—he made me lunches, put bows in my hair, and helped see me off to Kindergarten. While in school, they taught us about the women’s suffrage movement, the feminist movement, and equality in the workplace. On the outside, it appeared that women finally had it all. It appeared that there was nothing that I, as a woman, needed to worry about when I applied for jobs in the workforce after finishing my degree.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that women continue to struggle for equality in every aspect of society. As a seasoned veteran in these experiences, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, offers context for why we are still struggling for gender parity, as well as practical advice for both men and women in order to coexist more productively and happily as a society.
Though some critics have stated that Sandberg places the blame on women. That is simply untrue. Her book offers a realistic perspective that encourages both men and women to champion women and overcome the internalized messages that often cause women to silence themselves, sit in the corner of the room in an important meeting, and make subtle decisions that place them on a path to leave the workforce before that decision need to be made. She argues that most of the behavior that perpetuates inequality between men and women is often subconscious and that in order to achieve true equality between men and women, institutions and individuals must notice this behavior and correct it by “encouraging, promoting, and championing more women.”
Sandberg even goes so far as encouraging males to help more in the home (and encourages women to let them do this, even if it isn’t their way). She observes that many women turn down important career opportunities because they fear their home dynamic will be negatively impacted, or that they will not be able to juggle family and work life. The question is, who really can? I believe the true answer to that question is: not a single person. That’s why if a woman feels so inclined to have a family, its important to find a “real partner,” an equal partner—one who is supportive not just by encouraging you in your career, but one who is changing diapers at 3am, and making breakfast for the kids.
Beginning the conversation about true gender equality is the first step toward achieving the parity we are seeking. Sandberg observes that changing the standard norms and cues women receive in addition to the patriarchal ideals that are institutionalized in our social systems will be a tedious process. She hopes that her book will encourage more women to stay in the workforce, challenge them to speak louder and seize those coveted leadership positions. With more women in leadership, more changes can be made within institutions to remedy the barriers which fundamentally hold women back from being successful in their given career paths.
These barriers don’t just hold women back either. Sandberg, and I too, believe that with more women in leadership positions and in the workforce, an equal voice of the population will be better heard, and women can contribute to the various areas in which men are lacking. With true gender equality, our workplaces, politics, and homes will be a more enjoyable and productive place to be.
Moving forward, both men and women should be held responsible for actively championing women to be leaders in the workplace and for men to be leaders in the home. I’m ready to make my mark so that when my children go to school and learn about the women’s movement for equality, they won’t be surprised as I was to learn that women still have a long way to go until they have it all; rather, I hope they worries focus on which career path is the right one for them, not because they are male or female, but because they want to be true to their work and love what they do, whether that is working in politics, advertising, or raising their own children. I hope that we can work together in our generation in order to ensure that our children don’t have to worry about these issues, nor will our children’s children.
I’m ready to make my mark. Are you?