Today is the Day After International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

March 8th is an important day on the calendar. Not only is it my paternal grandmother’s birthday (she would have turned 96 this year), but it’s also designated as International Women’s Day (IWD). It is significant that this day is marked around the world. But… I believe there is a more important day for women – March 9th, the day after International Women’s Day.

My husband reminded me of this yesterday. I told him all about how my employer, ADP Canada, celebrated women on IWD, and we discussed the Insights Survey released by ADP entitled, Workplace Gender Gap Hits Home. He said to me, “Just like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day,” don’t you care more about every day except that day?” And I realized, he’s right. Let me explain.

I have always told my family and friends that I did not need any specific day designated on the calendar to tell them how I feel. Take Mother’s Day. I should show love and gratitude to my mother every day. Or Valentine’s Day. I don’t need a special day of the year to tell those I love most that I love them. I should feel compelled to show my love, devotion and appreciation every day of the year.

In particular, I have always felt that the day after a special or designated day is most important. It’s the day the merchandise on the stores shelves is gone, replaced by items that represent the next one. Or it’s the day when we don’t see posts on social media or headlines in newspapers. It’s not that people forget, but it’s not top of mind anymore.

I feel this is particularly the case for International Women’s Day. I respect and honour this significant day on the calendar. And I am proud to celebrate on March 8th. But today, on March 9th, is the day I am choosing to write about it. And maybe tomorrow, and the next day too. Celebrating women is something dear to me. And celebrating the great boys and men around me, who help raise me up, and who have guided me and mentored me to be the woman I am today, well that matters too. The world is made up of women AND men, and I feel we will all succeed if we support, and celebrate each other.

As I have written here before, my career began in sports radio. I can’t remember how many people worked in the sports department at the radio station, producing shows, as on-air hosts and reporting sports news. But I do remember that they were ALL men. Well, except me. That’s right – I was the ONLY woman on the team at this all-sports radio station. And I have only kind, wonderful things to say about the few dozen men who I worked with there. I was never looked at as being different, because I was a woman. I was respected for my intellect, my hard work and my dedication to stepping up and being part of the group.

I felt the same respect when I worked on the assignment desk in sports television, and when I pivoted my career into communications. I count both women and men among the people who raised me up, taught me new skills and reminded me that I’m smart.

And what’s important is that all of the wonderful women and men who I have worked with throughout my career celebrated me, as a woman, every day. Not just on March 8th. I want women to know that it’s their right to speak up and speak out every day. They deserve to achieve whatever career – and personal goals – they wish. And they deserve to be celebrated every day for their achievements. They deserve to work in an environment that promotes equity and equality, every day.

The theme for IWD 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge. So here is my challenge to you: celebrate the wonderful women in your life today, March 9th. And tomorrow, and the next day. Raise them up. Tell them that they are great and they can achieve anything they put their mind to. And when we cycle around to March 8th, 2022, remind them again.

Thank you to everyone in my life who have reminded me that as a woman I can do anything. You can too!

 

My Girl Can Do Anything

my girl can do anything

I took this photo three years ago – January 2018, when my daughter, Julia, earned her Purple Belt in karate. That’s no small feat, no matter how big or how old you are. Julia was just seven years old the day she wrapped this precious belt around her little waist. I remember the day like it was yesterday, and it makes me smile with pride. I knew it already when she was very tiny, but on this day, when Julia raised her arms high, holding that purple belt, I knew: my girl can do anything.

There has been much written and discussed over the last week about the incredible achievement in the United States, that a woman is now their Vice-President. It took the U.S. 244 years to elect a woman to the second-most senior seat in their government. I, like millions of women around the world, am thrilled and feel that it’s about time. I even admit that I teared up, just a bit, on January 20th, when I watched this incredible woman, Kamala Harris, take the oath of office.

But through those tears of joy a little bit of the cynic in me was there too. Other thoughts were pulsing through my head, and I can’t get them out. Writing about my thoughts does not diminish Vice President Harris’s achievement, but I feel I need to share my considerations.

Much of the Democratic World is far ahead of the US: they’ve elected female leaders

I can’t help but think about the fact that the U.S. just inaugurated their FIRST ever woman Vice President, in 2021. If I look over the past 100 years, in democracies around the world, it’s not hard to find many incredible women who haven’t just achieved the second highest office in the land, but the highest. There are dozens of women on the list.

Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India, first elected in 1966, then again in 1980. I can’t forget Golda Meir, who led Israel as its Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974. Even Canada had a female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, for six fleeting months in 1993. Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister of New Zealand in 2017 and has even had a baby during this time.

Throughout our nation’s history, in Canada, three remarkable women have achieved the office of Deputy Prime Minister, starting with Sheila Copps in 1993. Anne McLellan held the role from 2003-2006, and since November 2019 our Deputy Prime Minister is a woman of whom I have tremendous respect: Chrystia Freeland.

Celebrating the United States’ first ever female Vice President is important and is significant, and Kamala Harris is following in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest women. But is she first on the world stage? Is the U.S. a leader here? No.

My girl can do anything: it’s not just about going after political office

During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, we discussed, in jest, what our children may be when they grow up. We both have three kids, and our third child, in both cases, is outgoing, confident, even a bit of a dictator. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the fact that hers is a boy and mine is a girl didn’t even come up in our conversation. For us both, as successful working mothers, we know that our children can do anything. Whether their child is a boy or a girl, it doesn’t matter. I always know that my girl can do anything.

Here’s a question I have been asking with respect to women: is becoming the Prime Minister, or President, or Vice-President, the highest achievement? Is that what I want my daughter to think, that women have achieved greatness only once we have been elected, not just in the United States, but around the world? My answer is the same here: no.

To be the first woman to do anything is significant, and it must be celebrated. Books have been written, movies have been produced, on the many trail blazing women from around the world who were firsts to achieve greatness, and most of these women had no political aspirations. Those women, who have been our drivers of change, have made it possible for a female to be the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Canada, Chief News Anchor, or the President of a University, CEO of a Fortune 500 Company or the Head of my daughter’s elementary school.

What about the second woman?

The first is important, in politics for sure, and in medicine, journalism, education, corporate boards and more. But how about that second woman or third or fourth, or 717th or 7,000th?

I love to celebrate great women, and not just our trail blazers who are the first to achieve something great. Most of the young girls and women with whom I have crossed paths in my life and career have no aspirations to be the first or even to be a driver of change. But they do believe that they can do anything. And that’s because 717, or 7,000 or 7 million women have gone before them to create that path.

To be the first woman Vice President of the United States is an achievement. It is worth a celebration, across social media, newspapers, TV, movies. Everywhere. If it makes even just one young girl develop the ambition to seek the highest political office, then the world is a better place. And you will hear me cheer. Let’s also cheer on the second woman who will one day be Vice President of the United States, or the fourth woman to become Deputy Prime Minister in Canada, or the next woman to be named the CEO or President of a University, or really, to achieve whatever dream she has.

Let’s encourage girls and women to do anything and be everything they WANT to be, no matter what that it is. That’s what I do in my house every day, and I know that my girl can do anything.

Do Women Want Gender Parity or Do They Want Recognition?

women

On March 8, every year for over 100 years, we celebrate women around the world. Officially what I have read and learned, it is a day that focuses on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. That’s a bit vague, but okay. I also know that this day is widely marketed as one that focuses on accelerating gender parity. I will admit that I am not much of an activist and am not drawn to women’s marches or protests. For me, International Women’s Day is a day for reflection and discussion. It’s a day that puts women at centre stage to state our case to the world. As this annual celebration comes to a close, it makes me think, is what we want really gender parity or is it more about recognition?

If one looks at the definition of gender parity, this is it: a numerical concept related to gender equality. In the context of gender equality, gender parity refers to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public.

But is that realistic? Gender parity is about numbers – equal numbers, across all parts of life, all around the world. While in theory it may be something nice for our society to aspire to this, I think it is simply idealistic and a fairy-tale. It is not going to happen. And quite frankly, I don’t think it has to happen.

I would love to celebrate women every day. We are great. And we are different from men in so many ways. Our bodies are physically different. We think differently and definitely behave differently. We internalize our experiences in such different ways. And that’s okay.

I don’t think either men or women are better than the other. Each gender contributes to the world, but I don’t think they do so in the same way. Numerically, in the workforce, yes, they should be equal. No doubt. If a 35-year-old woman with ten years’ experience puts in an 8-hour day as an accountant she should be compensated the same way her male colleague, also a 35-year-old-accountant with ten years’ experience, is paid.

I think where I disagree with many people is the notion of equal contribution of women and men in every dimension of life, whether private or public. Men and women do not have to be equal in every dimension of our lives. Because of the vast differences between men and women that I stated above, I believe that it is not possible to be equal at everything.

A wise friend of mine (yes, of course a woman) discussed this very issue with me today. We talked about how men and women see themselves in the world. When you get to a certain age, how does a man versus a woman view their accomplishments and contributions to society?

For the most part, the men I know measure success on career advancements and their contributions to their profession. Losing a job, not getting a promotion or failure in a business venture means he is not successful.

The women in my inner and even outer circle measure success very differently. No doubt, my female friends and family are ambitious and want to achieve great things in their careers. But for most of them, life is about more than that. Whether it be running a household or supporting a close group of friends, women see the big picture. If one part of their life has stalled, they pick up the pace somewhere else. Women balance a career and all that life throws at them.

And women do it well. On International Women’s Day, heck every day, we want to be recognized for being different from men. I’m not saying we are always better or that we deserve more. In some parts of life, for sure, we demand equality. But we also demand the recognition of being different and the respect we deserve for who we are.

So, happy International Women’s Day to all my female friends and family. May you go from strength to strength, and be recognized for that strength. Every day.

Inappropriate Behaviour is Never Appropriate

I have carefully followed and monitored the news coverage and analysis over the last two months of men, who for the most part were in positions of power, and used that power over women. I have read a lot and thought about this often. I have kept my thoughts to myself and taken it all in. But I will say it loud and clear today: inappropriate behaviour is never appropriate.

There is one thing I want to make clear before I write more. I have never personally been the victim of inappropriate behaviour, harassment or sexual assault. I have worked with many men over my 15 year plus career, and all of them, from the CEO of the company to my boss to my colleagues, have always treated me with respect at all times.

My first job in media, at a sports radio station, where I was surrounded by men, I was never exposed to any inappropriate behaviour. I worked closely with some big names in sports, and quite honestly, my experience was very positive. And that’s the way it’s been for me as I moved into television and then into communications.

But I think my story is unique. I think I am lucky that I have worked for and alongside some good men, who always treated me appropriately. Other women have not been so lucky. And that makes me angry.

It is unacceptable for a man, especially one who is in a position of power, to behave in an inappropriate manner around a woman. Harassing a woman is awful, and assaulting her is revolting.

Women have put up with this for thousands of years, all over the world. Men, who for the most part are bigger and stronger than women, have wielded power over them and abused them. It is important to note that not all women through history have been the victim of inappropriate behaviour, but they have been in the minority. And until now women’s cries for help went unheard.

Coming forward and speaking out against harassment or assault takes tremendous courage. I applaud every woman who has filed a complaint or who has faced the man head on who may have behaved inappropriately towards her. Women in ancient times to the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution to the 21st century have tried to speak out. And now everyone is listening. Loud and clear. Finally.

But I also think that we need to be careful. I believe that there aren’t just a few good men around but there are many great men. Most men know what is appropriate and what is not and they know how to treat women respectfully. They are equally revolted by sexual harassment and assault. They just know what’s right.

It is never too late to speak out. Women are learning that now. There is strength in one voice or many. I hope this is just the beginning of a new world we are living in where men treat women with respect and women can speak out when they don’t.

Dads in the Corner Office AND Making Dinner

Dads

Over the past six months I have written a number of posts about how to balance the many demands of being a mother to three children and my personal career ambitions. I have come to the conclusion that women in 2017 can’t have it all. We try hard to have a work-family balance, and I personally have settled to just do my best. But what about Dads? Can the modern father have it all? Can he rise through the ranks of a corporation or spend long days and even nights working, yet still be there at home to bathe the children and read them a bedtime story?

I have not given Dads enough credit. It is not easy to be a father in 2017. Men who choose to get married, in their twenties and thirties in particular, and have children in their twenties, thirties and into their forties, are also looking for the ultimate work-family balance. These men are not the CEO of the house (sorry guys, that’s the woman!) and often don’t even think about all the small details that go into the well-oiled machine that is raising children.

But today’s father plays an active role in not only how his children are raised – the corporate world calls this the strategy – but also is actively involved in raising those children – the tactics. Dads today don’t just wake up in the morning, get ready for work and kiss the wife and children good bye as he heads out the door. He may give the children breakfast, put their lunch together for school and often is the person who brings them to school each morning.

Dads today go grocery shopping, drive the kids to karate and wash the dishes after dinner. They book play dates for their kids and change diapers. And many of them also hold down a full-time job. I believe that at work they are expected to devote all their energy and put aside the demands of their home life. While many of these great men try, they too may never achieve a much-desired true work-family balance.

My husband, David, is one of those Dads. As his colleagues will tell you, David is one of the most dedicated and skilled people to work with. He works with tremendous integrity and passion and throws himself in to every task he tackles. He is thorough and considers every minute detail.

David’s biggest challenge is time management. As a professional, he is loyal and works hard. As a Dad, he is caring and will do anything for his children. Balancing the needs and demands of work and children is often very difficult.

I believe David’s challenge is not unique. Many Dads in 2017 want the same success in their career that men have always wanted. And they are expected to give their full attention and energy to their job. But they want to also play an active role in raising their children. Many of their wives have a career, and these men are compelled to spend quality time with the children and support the duties of the household.

It’s not easy. I commend the efforts of the Dad who tries his best to reach the corner office and cook dinner for his family. Thank you to all the men out there who work hard every day and who also do their best to support their wives as they strive to reach the corner office too.

Dads
Getting the office work done then feeding the kids

I am a CEO. Of my House.

CEO

It wasn’t my dream to be an executive. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a sports journalist. I also knew that I wanted to be a Mom. Little did I know that one day I would be a CEO – not of a retail company or a non-profit organization, but of my house. That’s right, my house. I am a CEO, the Chief Executive Officer, of my house.

I attained my first executive position at a very young age, on June 25, 1998. It was the day I married David. We moved to France, where David was fortunate to get his first engineering job working with his brother-in-law. We lived in a sweet little house in a small village. I would say that was my first foray into executive leadership. I didn’t have a traditional job, but I worked. I ran my first household. It was a small business, with few needs and demands. But it kept me busy, as I learned how to live away from my parents, how to cook and how to live life with another person.

I was promoted through the executive ranks over the next 8 years, as we moved our home from France to Israel to New York and back to Toronto. I had achieved the title of Senior Vice-President by 2006. In June of that year I learned that I was pregnant with our first child and accepted the role to be CEO of our household. In March of 2007 I was formally installed into my position of CEO – Chief Executive Officer – of my house.

Our family of four, the day we moved out of our old house

CEO
Our excited kids three years ago, on the day we moved into our current house

I will admit the first three paragraphs of today’s post are a bit tongue and cheek. But I am trying to make a point. I really am the CEO of my house. I run a very busy household that includes five members, ranging in age from 1 to 44. Each person has a unique schedule, a unique role and unique responsibilities. And I’m in charge of making sure it all runs smoothly. I strategically consider everything each member of the family needs, and I carefully make plans to achieve success. I am not just a wife and mother – I am the leader of the family. I am the CEO.

Since Matthew was born 10 ½ years ago, I have held this position on a full-time basis, on and off, for just under three years. For the other seven plus years, I have also had a job in the general workforce. But why isn’t CEO of my house on my resume? Am I ashamed of the 9 months I was a full-time CEO of my home when Matthew was a baby, the 11 months when Julia was a baby and year that Nessa was an infant?

I have been a CEO for over ten years and have gained valuable skills during that time. Here is a list of some of them:

  • I have experience managing people – I currently lead four people
  • Multi-tasking – I can make dinner, help the kids with homework and tidy the living room at the same time
  • Budgeting – running a household can be an expensive endeavor, and it is important that funds are available to pay the bills, buy groceries and save for the future
  • Passion – okay this is not a skill, but it’s something I have. I love my family and am deeply committed to helping them be successful in life
  • Strategic communication – this skill is key in the successful leadership of a household. Language and tone must be carefully considered every day. Whether it is calming down a 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in a grocery store to a 10-year-old who refuses to go to bed at night, a strategic approach to how one communications can be the difference between success and failure.

Right now, my resume includes many skills and leadership roles of which I am very proud, including my years as a student, as a journalist and a communications professional. Maybe I shouldl add one more section to my “professional experience” – CEO, of my house.

Do High Heeled Shoes Define a Woman?

high heeled

I still watch the TV show Grey’s Anatomy (can you believe it’s already the 14th season?). In this season’s opening episode, the Chief of Surgery, Dr. Miranda Bailey, struggled with high heeled shoes. More specifically, she didn’t just struggle with actually wearing them but also with what they mean to women. It was a well-written storyline, produced in good-humour, and it had an impact on me, as a woman, who is exploring the next steps I take in my career.

During my 15 plus year career I have never been a high heeled woman.  What is a high heeled woman you ask? She is a professional woman who is put together, dressed elegantly every day at work, and every piece of her outfit is carefully considered and matched, down to her high heeled shoes.

My first job was at an all-sports radio station, where I was the lone female among a few dozen men. Jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of running shoes was considered dressed up for work. I fit in with the guys, earned their respect and was more than happy to look like a hobo like the rest of them (especially when I produced the morning show and arrived at work at 4:00 am).

As I moved along my career path, into television then communications I made myself over and dressed accordingly based on my workplace. But I left the high heeled shoes at home.

Do many women feel the pressure to dress up, from head to toe, every day? Do they need to brush their hair just right, put on the right amount of make-up and slide on those high-heeled shoes? Have men put the pressure on us, or have we created this ourselves? Would a man ever consider putting on a pair of shoes in the morning that he knows are uncomfortable, that he knows he must squish his feet into?

Why do women feel compelled to wear high heeled shoes? I realize that for some people the answer is simple. You are an intelligent and successful woman, and you choose to look feminine and sophisticated, and that’s it.  Many women feel that the high heeled shoe is part of the required uniform for a female in the professional world. Her feet hurt and sometimes her toes and ankles will blister, but damn, she looks good.  No man would ever stand for that.

I did an experiment Thursday morning and wore a pair of sleek, black high-heeled shoes to work (I do own a couple of pairs). I put myself together nicely (I wouldn’t say I looked elegant or sophisticated but I looked okay!), with a light amount of make-up, casual yet professional outfit and my high heeled shoes.

My feet were already hurting as I walked from my car to the elevator. I had to take my shoes off at my desk, as I slowly began to feel my swelling feet doing all they could to escape their prison. By the time I walked back to my car hours later each of my baby toes had a red blister on them and my feet were really sore.

I did get a few compliments on my shoes and how shiny and nice they were. Sleek, high heeled shoes are often noticed and complimented at various offices I have visited. No matter how much agony they are in as they stand there, knowing their feet are enclosed in a space that really only has room for the big toe, these compliments reinforce the idea to other women that high heeled shoes are okay.

For me, they are not okay. I prefer to follow the lead of Dr. Miranda Bailey, a successful, intelligent woman at the top of her game. I am putting my high heeled shoes back in the drawer and pulling out the clogs (or flats) instead.

Dads Making Dinner and Moms in the Corner Office

work family balance

 

My husband, David, knows how to cook and bake. Well kind of. He can cook eggs any way, his chicken schnitzel is crispy and juicy and he makes the best pie I have ever tasted. He also likes to eat, so when I go away and leave him alone with the children, for the evening, a couple of days or a week I know he and the children will eat.

I don’t know what they will eat, if the house will be clean or when (or if!) the children will go to bed. Somehow, he muddles his way through it all while I am away, the children always have a great time while Mommy is gone and the house is still standing when I return.

Does my husband concern himself with any of this when he goes away? Does he worry if the children will eat a balanced diet, whether or not they will bathe or if they will sleep more than a few hours each night?

I know that in my case the quick and easy answer is no. Without even doing a survey (a simple one or even one that follows the Scientific Method) I am quite sure that the answer is usually no for most families. And this irks me.

When my parents grew up, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, most fathers went out to work in the morning and most mothers stayed at home to run the house and take care of the children. One could logically conclude that the majority of fathers at that time couldn’t put a balanced meal together, didn’t know how to do a load of laundry or turn on a vacuum cleaner.

When I grew up, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a far larger number of women went off to work in the morning, including my mother, but the responsibility to run the household and care for the children still far skewed towards the mother. My father was incapable of even making a piece of toast, cutting up vegetables or heating up leftovers. I still don’t think my father knows where the power button is on the washing machine though I will give him credit that he does know his way around a mop, broom, vacuum cleaner and bathroom sponges.

The women’s movement was strong in the 1970’s, and many women strived to have it all. They wanted to be leaders in business, entrepreneurs and executives but also have a family. They wanted the ultimate – to find that perfect work-family balance. Many of these women of the 1970’s had families and raised daughters to have the confidence to strive to have it all.

But do we? While it is quite commonplace today that most households are double income, I believe that the majority of the household duties still fall on the mother. While of course there are exceptions and there are some incredible fathers who balance a demanding job and run the household, they are in the minority.

Most women today, who have a career and family, don’t have it all. As I write this post, for example, in the early evening, I am home alone with my three children. My son is watching television, my 7-year-old daughter is playing quietly with her toys and my baby girl is crying and wants to be held and entertained. I still have to cook dinner and put a load of laundry in the machine and somehow I need to write and post my blog and do some other work as I do my best to earn a living. David is an active, caring and doting father and does his fair share around the house, but at the end of the day the children’s and the house’s well-being are my responsibility.

So the answer to the question is simple: do we, women in 2017, have it all? Absolutely not and we will never find that perfect work-family balance. We will do our best to try, as women always do. We will raise our daughters to aim high and dream big. For now, I will carry the baby in the Ergobaby while I make dinner, change the channel on the TV to keep the other two children happy and press publish on this post. It’s the best I can do.