What does International Women's Day mean to me?
Like most people, I remember asking my parents about the day I was born, I wanted to know everything about that day and how it went down. My dad tells me that the moment he saw me, he could swear I asked him (with my eyes): "Hola papi, ¿Cómo estás? (Hi, daddy, how are you doing?)", it was the beginning of an amazing relationship. My aunt, who was with my father as my mom delivered me, told me a different side of the story. Allegedly, when the nurse came out to say that it was all good and shared the news that it was a girl, my dad asked her to go back in, and make really sure that it wasn't a boy instead! Mind you, he had already his firstborn boy, Salvatore, but for Sicilians (as for many other cultures) the more boys you have the better.
I share this story, because I was raised in that culture. If you want to talk about a "Macho" culture, Sicilians are probably high on the ranks. Lucky for me, my father was able to put aside his own preconceptions and always empowered me and my sister to reach for the stars, and for that, I'm forever thankful.
When I was 18 my grandmother was already worried that I hadn't married. I always joke that in hindsight it was "good" that she passed away a few years later, she would have definitely not done well with the fact that at 33 I hadn't married yet! I can never forget how one of my beloved aunts suggested that I "dumbed myself down" if I liked a guy, she told me that I was too smart and men didn't like that! Shamefully enough, I tried doing that right after I received her "wisdom" and immediately acknowledged that I much rather stayed single my entire life than to have to pretend to be someone I wasn't.
My mom is truly the perfect housewife, her dedication to her family is unparalleled, so that's the example I have. She always says that her biggest achievement is to have had a happy marriage and having raised three good, kind and accomplished human beings. What is bigger than that? she asks all the time.
My biggest challenge is that I have the example of a great entrepreneur in my dad and of an amazing housewife in my mom, and I strive to be both. I want to be both! Is it even possible?
I like to think yes! I think part of it goes with remembering that, even as we fight for equality and inclusion, at the core, we are not the same. I've been called a feminist because I advocate a lot for women's advancement and empowerment, but to the surprise of many, I also advocate for women not forgetting that we were given a very special job too by whoever (or whatever) created us. We are the only ones that can birth another human being, we are given the ability to feed and nurture our babies, one of the most special bonds there is. Yet many women are not even trying to do it, we put our jobs and other things as a priority instead. Having breastfed both my babies for a year each, it pains me to learn that more and more, women are forefaiting one of the most incredible experiences in life, one that our body was designed to perform, without giving it a fair chance (because God knows it ain't easy!).
I was watching the Crown yesterday, and there was a scene of Margaret Thatcher ironing her husband's shirts. She was mocked often because apparently, she was running parliament as well as her household. Germany's Angela Merkel is another example, the pictures of her doing her own grocery shopping were all over the internet, is almost as if doing errands or housework diminishes one's professional capabilities.
International Women's Day is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres and advocating for what is still needed in our world today.
In my opinion, we don't advance this "cause" by polarizing views, we advance it by changing our mindset, by breaking with old societal beliefs but without compromising our true essence. Can't I be a CEO that also enjoys cooking for the family and cleaning the house? I understand that's not true for most women, but why are we forced to be on one side or the other? Why should the woman that chooses to be a housewife or a "soccer mom" be exposed to be judged by those that want to be CEO's or advance professionally? AND VICE VERSA? On the corporate front, we need to make a commitment to give equal opportunities to ALL. Focus on capabilities, experience and who is best for the job. Most importantly, pay should be equal. A job is a job regardless of who does it, and for me, pay inequality is simply unacceptable, and yes, in subjects like this is when the "feminist" side of me will show up in a big way!
I am proud to be a woman, the woman I WANT TO BE. Those before us didn't have that chance, so we need to be thankful that they paved the way. I am also thankful for the many men that have genuinely supported the cause all along and that take a solid stand on it, not so much to the ones that do it to be politically correct and when given the chance to promote the change we need, they don't do anything about it.
As we keep advancing in this effort, we need to make sure we create enough "judgment free" space for all women to become whatever they want to become. We need to support each other instead of tearing down whoever doesn't embrace our same beliefs or goals. We can collectively do this and I'm excited about what the future holds. Are you?
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!