This was a common theme at the Women Who Build Conference I attended in February. I thought it’d be fun to share my story and invite others to share their own as well.
It started with my amazing dad. I spent countless hours in the workshop with him, working beside him or on my own projects at the workbench he built just for me, which was exactly the same as the one he built for my brother. He taught me how to change a tire, change my oil, change my brakes, and then some. We went fishing and I was expected to put my own worm on the hook. He never acted like there were “boy” things I couldn’t do.
Now, I’m married to a wonderful man whose support enables me to be (or at least try to be) the woman I aspire to be. He watches our son when I have to work late, or want to go to a conference, or to yoga class. He does nearly all of the cooking because he knows how much I cherish that small window of time with our son between getting home from work and sitting down to dinner. I couldn’t do what I do without him.
It’s critically important to provide mutual support among the women in our industry and for the upcoming generations of girls who will join us. We need to do this, however, without forgetting about the male role in making the progress we seek. That takes the form of appreciation and acknowledgement, as I have done here and as many women did at the conference, but it also must include helping break down gender barriers going in the other direction.
That brings me to my sweet baby boy (who’s five – not exactly a baby anymore). He loves to play with trucks, practice his tae kwon do moves, and run around with his light saber; but he also loves crafts, unicorns, and even to wear the Elsa costume that he made with my mom. My husband rolls his eyes (only for me to see) at that last one a little bit, but he lets it fly. To break down the gender gap, we need to A. teach our boys that girls can do anything boys can do, and B. teach our boys that boys can do anything girls can do!
For women to be better represented and equally paid in traditionally male dominated industries, change must occur multi-directionally. Removing gender stereotypes in BOTH directions will only help create shared perspective in a bigger way.
For further reading, check out this New York Times article which points to the reluctance of men to work in female-dominated industries, even when the number of job opportunities are increasing in those industries, while they drastically decrease in some male-dominated industries.