International Women’s Day is today – a moment designed to make us pause to celebrate achievements in the greater cause of gender equality and identify areas where further action is required.
I recenty wrote an editorial about this for a newsletter for women in medicine, but the question applies well beyond the health care field: When and how do you remember becoming aware that you are a WOMAN?
For me, that moment came when I became a mother. Until then, it was never a question of gender – more of interests and capabilities. My pregnant state suddenly made some clinical things impossible (like intubating someone after my belly reached its sixth month fullness) and impacted my non-clinical activities (when someone assumed that I would no longer be interested in serving on a national medical committee so found me a replacement without first even checking with me). It got worse from there – how could I practice normally when I was on duty in the ER while my precious bundle was crying or really sick at home? Or when I had to stop doing day shifts when the only daycare I could find was across town and only opened at 8am and the department was not willing to allow we the exception of starting at 8h30am. This created the odd dynamic of having to do evenings and weekends only, which was not easy on family life. Then friends who had done women’s studies started pointing out things that I thought were random or unexplainable, and showed me evidence of patterns that I could then recognise in real life. My “female condition” suddenly was revealed to have more of an impact on my career, thinking and perspectives that I had ever imagined.
I gradually become more aware of the challenges we still face today, the number of mothers at home or only working part-time and not by choice, the number of talented woman leaders not given the kind of opportunities they deserve. Because it should really all be about capabilities and choice – not about gender. Then I learned more about the history of how far we have actually come – which was energising – but so much more remains, and even more so in the developing world.
A view of my own has emerged over these exchanges, a perspective untainted by the bigger polarising questions of feminism or post-feminism. A simple perspective on what makes one’s life better. The clarity and courage to decide that authenticity requires being who one is and not conforming to system’s expectations in an effort to advance. The need for working together with women and men interested in making the necessary changes happen.
Even more so, I have come to really appreciate the pricelessness of the connection to a network of girlfriends who understand the unique challenges and who provide support, advice and lend a hand when one is needed.
myBestHelper was born out of these reflections. A tool to help mothers and families cope, manage, thrive. Also a tool that helps protect the women providing care by giving them more knowledge about who is going to hire them. At almost a thousand users, we are thrilled to see the response from our community and I have no doubts we will accomplish great things together, just as stated in my favorite quote from Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Happy Women’s day to all women!