The next woman I met was an executive, one of the very few female executives at our institution. Of course I had to ask her thoughts on getting to her position and why there are so few women in positions like hers. She said that she had been in the business a long time. When she first started, it was an Old Boys' Club. Fortunately, not anymore. She doesn't get that sentiment at all. In fact, when asked to speculate, she could not idenitlfy a reason why there were not more women in her position.
She is a single woman, has not had children (yet), and has dedicated a good amount of hours on her career. We started to wonder, is a position of leadership that high up the corporate ladder intimidating to us (women)? Do we think that we need to make a decision about family or job and we just go ahead and choose family instead, without trying to do both? After reflection, she said, "Yes, actually that has been my impression that women feel they need to choose." This is in fact, echoed by women around the hospital rather then the go-get 'em experience of the first woman. I pointed out once to a room full of women if they noticed that all the president portraits in the very, very, very long "Hall of Presidents" are male. Many women laughed and said, "Yeah, I couldn't handle that responsibility."
This is, in fact, what Sheryl Sandberg writes about in her book, and now my bible, Lean In. Women give up before they try. We are told it is difficult, it is time consuming. And we assume that, what, the other person involved in the child rearing is not going to step up the way we step up for them? Perhaps in some instances this is true. It is, in fact, part of the reason I waited for almost 8 years after getting my MD ("MD" for "massive debt" from student loans, people) to go out and do what I really wanted rather then working part-time to fit my job around my kids' schedules. (I can already feel the backlash coming to this statement : I do not mean that all women need to choose this path, just that there are those of us who want to but feel we can't).
What a low blow to my husband, not trusting him. The last 5 weeks, he has been dropping off kids, picking up kids, making breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cleaning up, the list goes on and on. I leave the house before him and come back after. Not one complaint. Not ever. If anything, he is cheering me on! Proud of every little accomplishment, daily reminding me, "Did you put it on your CV?!"
My much younger sister, a "millenial" was talking to me about the little scenario I blogged about some days back (check under "Proceed until apprehended.") She said women of her generation all race to what they want and if/when apprehended, try to keep going! How fantastic! I hope it is true for others not just her.
I'm not sure how to change this for our generation on a larger scale, to further empower women to go after what they want. Is June Cleaver ingrained in our psyches? Are we scared to try to "do it all" - cook meals, clean, volunteer in our kids schools? Are we all insecure subconsciously we can't make it? Do we lack faith in our partners? Is it a combination of all of these? Maybe, for each of us, the answer is different. I hope we all take time to ask ourselves important questions, so in the end we feel we have had a full life, a purposeful life, a life well-lived.