March 8th is International Women’s Day and never has it been more important to me, to stop and take notice of the incredible women around me as I introduce the world to my daughter.
I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents worked hard to ensure my sister and I believed and understood that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that we had the skills to get us there.
Learning to drive a car also meant learning to change it’s tires, and knowing what the manual said in regard to when a sound signalled something wrong.
I recall with picture perfect memory, going to buy my first car with my father. Of course having researched it meticulously ahead of time, I was armed with the knowledge to allow me to lead the conversation with the salesperson. On the first lot of cars, my father encouraged the young and introverted girl I was deep down, to control the conversation with the salesman walking toward me, as I was the one making the decision. Here, with every question I asked, the answer was directed to my father who time and again reiterated that he was just keeping me company and that the sale was entirely up to me. He was indeed there to serve another purpose, which I didn’t fully understand until later. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t taken advantage of, being naive and unsure of what I wanted in a car, knowing that at the time women, especially young women were viewed as separate clients than their male counterparts and were dealt with differently. Feeling unheard and overwhelmed we left the lot without making the purchase of what I felt was my perfect first car. Since we were already out and about, and what I now believe was a decision by my father to boost my confidence, we took another shot at another dealership. I had no information on these cars and had no intention of buying one, my heart being set of the first car at which we looked. Walking on the lot we were met by a gentleman named Terry. Terry understood in an instant that I was buying the car, it was for me, and I was making the decision. He also understood sales. He was kind, spoke directly to me with information that was not “dumbed down to my female status” as I had previously experienced. I felt heard and understood and my father was able to walk steps behind with a sense of pride for watching his daughter take on this leap of adulthood. I ended up buying a car from Terry. Two actually. Years later when it came time to upgrade my first set of wheels there was no doubt who I was going to support and where I would purchase my car.
A lot came out of this lesson for me, and the many my parents would teach me over the years.
Growing up in the Canadian Maritimes in the early 1980’s and 90’s was a definite plus. People were friendly, caring and neighbours felt like family. I was safe to run in the street, play in the park just out of sight of my house and to enjoy all the rights and freedoms others had worked so hard for me to have. But I did grow up with an awareness of being a girl, of learning that being pretty, dainty, and feminine was more valuable in society than smarts. These lessons were those I understood by being told I was “cute in that dress” rather than clever in how I spoke. Although I know my father adored my sister and I and took opportunity to dote upon us in his way, he worked hard to teach us lessons about independence, about having to be smart in more ways than test scores, about taking care of ourselves financially.
I can’t say it enough that I grew up lucky. I had the world opened up for me in so many ways. But an awareness was always there that I was a girl and that it was not the same as the image of success I had in my mind. Success was a salt-and-pepper haired gentleman in a three piece suit – no matter the job, this is what I thought the boss would look like. Jokes were told in subtle ways but the message was there. My time was meant to be spent investing in my aesthetic presence rather than my mind. I fell into this lure, like most girls growing up my age and it continues to be a battle as I struggle with the psychology of my worth.
I have a lot to teach my daughter.
I feel the pressure of being a mother who inspires, and ignites a flame of knowing her value among her peers and is driven for greatness. The history of women and their journey to equality is a long one far from over, but we learn of great company to share the badge of honour with (more about this here). I now know that boss looks like just about anything and I hope to come to a place where my daughter’s picture perfect memory is of my explaining this to her.
I am my own boss. I run a company with pride and passion. I am a mother. A daughter. A sister. A significant soul to someone I love. I determine my own worth.