I didn't change when I had a baby, but the way I see things did.
“This has been an exhausting, stressful, and sometimes downright weird election for all of us.”
When President Obama spoke these words on November 8th, it felt like the one thing that the entire country could agree upon. Regardless of party affiliation, we could not wait for the turmoil of the divisive election season to be past us. There was hope on the horizon.
President Obama was right- the sun did rise the next morning. But here we are, almost four months later, and the dust still has not settled. Things feel even more tense than before. We are becoming even quicker to assume what is happening in someone else’s mind or heart, and if or why they stand a certain way on an issue (political or otherwise), all based on (how we assume that) they voted.
This is especially true for women’s issues, which were so overtly immersed in every aspect of the 2016 election that it now feels like women themselves are the political issue.
If we aren’t careful, we will take these assumptions, emotions, and opinions into the workplace, where gender equality is not a new fight. The conversation around gender equality at work cannot be seen as a product of the 2016 election cycle, because it isn’t. To lump women’s issues in the workplace with a political mess is unfair, because it silences the many rational voices that have been advancing this issue and the women it affects for decades, even centuries.
Now more than ever it is important that we separate gender equality from any party affiliation, and to remember that when women advance professionally that we all benefit. Gender inequality at work is not political, it is factual. The pay gap is real. Women are disadvantaged in corporate America as it relates to promotions and have less access to senior leadership. We are increasingly underrepresented along the corporate pipeline, and women of color are least represented of all.
Image from the 2016 Women in the Workplace Report. We recommend you read it!
The best way to separate the fight for gender equality in the workplace from any other political fight is to keep politics out of the professional setting at all cost. It is, after all, the most basic etiquette rule: Don’t discuss sex, religion, or politics. But this is 2017. All etiquette has gone out of the window, and people are fighting about politics with no holds barred with their colleagues, friends and family, and any stranger on the internet that will engage.
If you, like me, are deeply addicted to checking news sites and feel passionately about many political issues our country is facing, it is important to take a step back for your professional safety (and sanity). Here are a few of the ways that have been helpful for me over the past four months.
Five Ways Remain Calm, Cool, and Collected in Today’s Political Climate
(so we can focus on closing the wage gap and fighting for gender quality in the workplace)
- Get involved outside of work. If you feel strongly about something, take action. Get involved on a local level, give to an organization that is advancing your cause, or write to your elected officials. This will empower you and fulfill you, which will leave you less likely to complain about the things you can’t change.
- Let others know if they are crossing a line (professionally). If you are in a conversation at work that turns political, it is okay to let the person you are talking to know that now isn’t the time. If you don’t want the conversation to continue it is well within your rights to say so. If someone begins to cross the line in political argument territory, simply tell them that you prefer not to discuss politics at work. It’s a professional, straight to the point comment that will allow you to veer the conversation in a new direction.
- Take digital breaks. If reading the news makes you sweat and audibly curse, it’s best not to read it at work. Turn off the news alerts on your phone, and trust that one of your coworkers will tell you if something that truly cannot wait happens. If you aren’t reading it, you are less likely to talk about it.
- Remember that we all come to work with a different worldview. We all come to the table with different life experiences behind us. Actively remember this on a daily basis, especially when you are in a challenging conversation that could become frustrating. Then, read #5:
- Take a deep breath, walk away, and carefully consider if it’s worth it. If things escalate, simply take a deep breath, remove yourself from the conversation, and think about it for a bit. Did someone ignore your request to change the subject from politics and say something offensive? If so, it is probably worth your time and reputation to alert the appropriate person in your office hierarchy. If someone simply expressed an opinion that you strongly disagree with, but meant you no harm, it probably isn’t. Although, it might be worth sending them a nice email reiterating point #2.
That’s it. It’s all I’ve got to get me through this strange political climate. As a woman that makes her living by empowering women at work, it is extremely important to me that we keep the fight for gender equality at work out of the political fight.
If you are interested in focusing on the positive changes that your women’s initiative can make now to help close the equality gap, let’s talk. There’s a lot we can do if we work together!
New Year’s resolutions have been around for awhile. 4,000 years, to be specific. Ever since the Babylonians started making promises to their gods in exchange for a favorable year, we have been making deals with ourselves that in the new year we will be different- that we will be “better”. We have had 4,000 years to get really good at making New Year’s resolutions, and still only about 8% of us actually stick to them.
In fact, we are only three days into the second month of this “new year” and already I have heard several friends say that they have “given up”. I even had a friend describe herself as a “complete failure” because she hadn’t kept her resolution to go to the gym four times a week so far this year.
Sure, not achieving a goal that you have set for yourself is frustrating, and it’s natural to feel dejected. Just like anytime we are feeling like we have failed, we have a choice: we can let the feeling of failure overcome us and become a part of who we are, or we can objectively examine our situation and use it as yet another opportunity for self improvement.
If you find yourself feeling like you have failed on your quest for self-improvement in 2017, I would encourage you to ask yourself these few questions:
Why did I “fail”?
Let’s talk about the friend I mentioned earlier that feels like a “complete failure” just weeks into the new year. I asked her why she thought she had “failed” and she responded that she had only made it to the gym four times in a week once so far. At the time, she only had three weeks of data (out of the 52 that make up a year). When I reminded her that she still had 49 weeks to improve her score, it didn’t seem to help at all. She had already resolved herself to be a “complete failure” just three weeks in.
So, I tried another approach. I began to ask her, as I suggest that you do with yourself, what she had been doing over those three weeks. It turns out that things had really picked up at work in the new year (as they often do) and she had been working 11 hour days. On top of that, she had also been sick with a terrible cold. She didn’t feel as though she could take off work, so she was exhausted when she got home from work and opted for sleep rather than early morning workouts.
In other words, she absolutely hadn’t “failed” at anything. At all.
Is what I resolved to do something that will actually make me “better”?
At the end of December, Bustle surveyed 822 millennials (97% of which identified as female) how they feel about New Year’s resolutions. The results showed that millennial women overwhelmingly focus their resolutions in two areas: to lose weight and exercise more, and to become a better, happier person.
Based on my experience as a woman for the 29.5 years I’ve been alive, I can say with certainty that many women equate the ideas of losing weight to becoming a better, happier person. And while I am a proponent of exercise for many reasons, I also believe strongly that the association between “thinness” and “happiness” is one of the biggest issues plaguing women today.
So, ask yourself- is what you resolved something that will actually make you “better”? If your reasoning behind exercising more or focusing on eating healthy foods is to improve your mood, sleep, or overall quality of life, then yes- that counts as “better”. But if all you want is to fit into smaller jeans, I can tell you from personal experience that you will never be good enough.
Would you make that resolution for your best friend?
Perhaps the most powerful statistic that came from Bustle’s survey was the answer to their question: “What New Year’s resolution would you make for your best friend?”
Ask yourself this same question. Was what you resolved for your friend the same thing you resolved for yourself? Was it even in the same “resolution family”? According to Bustle, only two women of the 822 surveyed reported that they would want their friend to lose weight in 2017. In fact, most women want their friends to practice self care, be kinder to themselves, to go after what they want at work, and to stand up for themselves.
New research tells us that women often fight for others harder than they do themselves at work. We also know how much easier it can be to tell our friends they are special, beautiful, smart, and strong than it is to tell ourselves those same things.
But isn’t that what New Year’s resolutions are all about? Making ourselves better? If your resolution for your friend is kinder than the one you have for yourself, it might be time to change your thinking. You haven’t failed because you didn’t keep your resolution. You have only failed by choosing the wrong resolution at the beginning.
It’s no longer January 1- who cares? Now is as good a time as any to resolve to be better. Be better to yourself, kinder to yourself, and more forgiving with yourself. New year, new you- and you deserve it.
If you’re interested in spreading confidence and self-love with the women you work with, let us know.