Celebrate the Choices You Make
One day, shortly before high school graduation, my father came into the room as I was cleaning house. Smiling proudly, he said, “Sweetheart, you are going to make someone a wonderful wife someday.” He offered this with sincerity, as the greatest possible compliment.
It’s not that being someone’s wife is an unworthy aspiration (I am, in fact, happily married), but it struck me that many assumed this was the only real form of female achievement. Here I was, the county science champion about to begin a biochemistry program at the University of Oregon, but my domestic skills remained paramount.
I often think of this interaction when reflecting on how rapidly views of women are changing. When my grandmother was born, women still lacked the right to vote! Changing societal views takes time, but I am proud to be a partner in a law firm that is ahead of the curve—one that actively encourages and promotes female leadership based on skill, effort, and personal choice.
The ability to make a choice and have it met with respect is what we should all want—whether the choice is to raise a family in a nurturing home, to lead the charge in a professional setting, a mix of both, or something else entirely. Being treated equally does not mean being pressed into an identical mold. It means being given equal opportunities to make choices about what is right for ourselves, even if those choices lead us in different directions.
Ultimately, female leaders in the workforce must be mindful of equally distributing those opportunities across a diverse team of professionals. We must not perpetuate gender-driven stereotypes by disproportionately assigning “busy-work” and organizational tasks to female colleagues, nor by offering high-profile or demanding opportunities only to male counterparts.
That said, all of us—women and men alike—must be proud of, and take ownership of, our choices. None of us can be in two places at the same time, and every one of us must balance personal, community, professional, and other demands. There is some truth behind the adage that you can have everything, but you can’t necessarily have everything at precisely the same time.
I am deeply grateful to strong women leaders, both past and present, who have expanded the options available to women and provided countless examples of what a “successful” woman looks like. Let’s all keep that evolution going.