The image poses a provocative statement, right? You may query why I begin this post on gender equality with such incitement, well here it is: I strongly believe that the quest towards Gender equality should not be a journey towards entitlement, but rather the recognition that women and men can change inequalities that are faced in their life by acknowledging their privileges, seizing their opportunities and thus creating their success path. This approach allows for both genders to be in the driver’s seat rather that victimizing themselves when faced with gender gap situations.
Before I guide you through my train of thought let me disclose that lately I’ve had “signs” that have allowed me to reflect on this issue thoroughly. Last week I learned that my ten-year-old daughter has a school assignment in which she needs to survey 4 boys or girls in order to learn what kids her age think about gender equality. In concluding this exercise with her peers she feels that there is gender equality and that boys and girls do have the same opportunities. I asked her if these opportunities can guarantee the same results and she answered with an “of course not! Results are each owns responsibility and what is relevant is that every person focus on achieving their goal”.
Yes, you are probably she lives in an environment where this is true for her school but it does not reflect a worldwide environment. Still, this is an advancement where only a few decades back this was not even possible in middle class Mexico City context. So, although advances have been made and gaps are still existing in many contexts the fact that there are situations where gender equality exists empower men and women to take responsibility and keep fomenting this quest.
For the sake of presenting my argument I will generalize on two types of approaches to gender equality. Those who feel victimized by the gaps and tend to bitch about all the disadvantages they have and why they feel entitled to the same rights and so it becomes a “fight for rights” and those who own their responsibility and take matters into their hands seizing opportunities (however small they may seem). Both approaches have a similar goal in mind which is to set a fair play ground for genders to be able to achieve their goals.
Out of personal experience I believe the second approach is more successful and therefor tend to agree with my daughter. At 32 I decided to change career paths, pursue my professional passion and build my way up the professional ladder in a discipline that was new in Mexico and mostly controlled by men. I began at the very bottom of the food chain in the lobbying world and was new to motherhood. Even though it had been my decision to be a working mom sometimes I did feel at a disadvantage. I remember a time when I was in line to a promotion and my boss then told me that he felt I should not take it because he’d rather I concentrate on being there for my daughter. I could have left and be felt the victim but instead responded that my daughter was my family business and not his concern or my handicap and asked if he had other reasons where he felt I was not qualified for the job so that I could work on those gaps. My boss did not expect this response and did not express any further reasons which led to my asking, so I get to be promoted then and it worked. It did help that I had fomented mentorships from both men and women in the company and they were keen on supporting my career advancement based on my results. To make a long story short I was able to move up the corporate ladder pretty fast although there were setbacks. There came a time where I had to decide if I should move on and follow new adventures or stay in my comfort zone while knowing I could be more valued elsewhere. I decided to seek new adventures and to my surprise there were plenty for me based on the reputation and respect from my colleagues that I had built throughout the years. So today I hold a high responsibility job in a very relevant company in which I feel respected, valued and most of all fulfilled professionally and personally. I am grateful to be in this position and acknowledge that my decisions have allowed to get me where I am today and I feel no gender inequality in my position. When sharing my experience with other women and men I highlight that when I felt at a disadvantage in balancing my work/home balance it was because it was scared to take more time to be with my daughter, to exercise, to allow me time to do other things I love other than work. When I started to experiment, and took that time without compromising the results I committed to in my professional life a whole broad of opportunities arose. Today I feel fulfilled in all that I do for me, for my family, for my profession and the rewards I get for my work. I have learned that there are always options, and have confidence that I can handle any situation no matter how hard it may seem.
So, based on my experience I don’t deny that gender inequality exists but we can reach important milestones towards gender equality by taking responsibility of our own stories and sharing our experiences for others to build on that. Thus, why I consider the approach of owning responsibility and seizing opportunities a more effective approach towards gender equality.