A Woman’s Place

My daughter came running into the kitchen holding our U.S. President Puzzle Box and exclaimed “Mom, there aren’t any women presidents! That’s wrong.”

I smiled. The fact that my nine year old daughter thought that there certainly must be women presidents, gave me hope. In her mind, a woman’s place was anywhere and everywhere, including leading the country.

The irony that I was standing in the kitchen, barefoot, at the time wasn’t lost on me. The one room, that the kids know they can find me in, is the kitchen. It has been deemed “Mom’s room”. I designed it. I made sure it had plenty of space for my family and friends to gather and keep me company while I cooked and managed my family’s life. For centuries, Hestia, “Goddess of the Hearth”, has been the defining symbol for a woman’s place. For many women, the hearth, now known as the kitchen, may still be the center of their “place.” However, for most, this place has evolved technologically to enable us to not only manage our homes, but also our work outside the home, supporting the idea that a woman’s place is everywhere and anywhere.

Most of the messages we hear about women in the workforce today talk about the need for women to stand up, be more confident, take a seat at the table, be more assertive, stop being just a homemaker and strive to lead the workforce. Essentially, women are expected to take on more stereotypical male characteristics and define success by stereotypical male standards.

Many women are happily stepping up to these expectations, even exceeding them, and proving along the way that a woman’s place is indeed everywhere.

However, I keep wondering: why is the stereotypical male standard of success the definition of success for everyone? Who are we to decide the definition of success for anyone? Don’t we all have the right to define what path our lives and careers should and will take?

Ladies, let’s make sure that in our efforts to prove we can do anything, that we don’t unintentionally shun the ability to make a choice. Let’s not forget that the thing we are all striving for is not to lead the world but to have the CHOICE to do so.

Success for a woman doesn’t have to look like success for a stereotypical man. Women are at a place where we can throw out stereotypes and create our own definition of what success looks like. Are men?

Like much of Brene Brown’s work and the current Lean-In Together initiative supports, I would argue that men should be striving for the same choice.

There needs to be a revolution around where a man’s place is too. We all need to be respectful of each other’s definition of success. Women have made it further down this path to break the stereotypical mold of where a female’s place is and now have more freedom to choose.

In order for this to truly take hold, however, men need to have the same freedom. I’m inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization who has shifted its focus from one just on women making it to the boardroom, to now include men taking on more active roles in kid’s lives and at home. The new tag line of Lean In Together, gives me hope.

Many of our clients are making a major shift in their performance management programs. They are stepping away from systems that focus on evaluating and ranking employees and moving toward a performance philosophy that supports development of their people.

I applaud them for this effort. Even more than that, I find hope in the shift many are making towards widening their view of their workforce to be more holistic, embracing who employees are, both inside and outside of work. Our clients are also empowering their employees to drive their own career growth by cultivating their leaders to be coaches who focus on connecting with their employees, valuing their contributions and coaching them to reach for their own dreams.

Our world is evolving, and in my mind, it is a beautiful thing to watch. As we watch several women run to become president; as we watch a U.S. Olympic Champion transition into a life he always dreamed of but only now dares to try; as we watch the movement for same-sex marriage make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court; and as we watch men make a stand with the Lean In Together campaign for a change in the roll men play in their children’s lives; I can’t help but be hopeful about a future where we all can be our best selves!

So, to women everywhere, continue to fight for what you are passionate about, continue to pave the way and set precedent, letting the world know that a women’s place can be anywhere and everywhere: in the home, in the boardroom, or in the farthest reaches of our world. To those same women, be just as dedicated to helping men find their place. Support their right to choose also. To men everywhere, I encourage you to join the fight to find your place in the home, in your children’s lives or anywhere else you choose to go.

Whether male or female, only you are capable of knowing where the right “place” is for you. With any luck, you will have a nurturing leader to help facilitate your journey and cheer you on your way. If you are blazing your own trail with no leader in sight, then I hope you have surrounded yourself with a community who is cheering you on. Go find your place…wherever that might be!