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March 16, 2017

International Women’s Day

I have been thinking about writing this for a week, but I was too busy working so please excuse the delay.

According to the International Women’s Day website, March 8th was “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.”  The site offered some good ideas on how to celebrate. Unfortunately, the ones that got the most attention were from sources that told women to go on strike, not shop, and to wear red to get the world to understand their importance. Some women celebrated that way.

I did not.

The professional women I know did not. In fact, I had quite a few women say it was silly, dumb, ridiculous… you get the gist!  These ideas are flawed and make women appear to be whiny. They reinforce stereotypes of women that are not complimentary and they certainly do not advance efforts to accelerate gender parity.

For years, women have lobbied to be taken seriously and valued for their work. While there is still much to be done, in my opinion, there has never been a better time in history for women in business. Just look at the statistics. Between 2007 and 2016, female-owned firms have grown five times faster than the national average. Peruse the covers of business magazines and increasingly you see stories about women CEOs and C-Suite Executives.

When I started my business, there were few resources available for women and even fewer role models. That did not stop me. In fact, I really have never thought of myself as a “woman in business”. Instead, I think of myself as a business owner. I have not been sitting around wishing and waiting for things to change. Think about it.  Men generally don’t expect everyone else to change and accommodate their special needs, wishes, and situations. They don’t get an International Men’s Day. They learn as young boys to stand up for themselves, adapt to harsh conditions, and figure out how to get to the top.  No one protects them or gives them a pass. We often do for little girls and perpetuate the fairy tale that someone will come along and save them.

The business world is competitive. Men and women must face the inevitable difficulties that accompany building their careers and if they choose to, starting and running a business.  Not everyone succeeds. That is the reality. The other painful truth is sometimes the barriers women face are there because they are getting in their own way. They don’t dream big dreams. They fade into the background. They limit themselves. And they make it “all about me.”

Sitting home (perhaps eating bon-bons), not shopping (think about all the women retailers they hurt), and wearing red (what if red is just not your color?) won’t make the world a better place for anyone. My dear departed mother gave me a real appreciation for work. She would have loved to have worked outside the home or owned a business. She was smart, but she also lived in a time when women really did not have opportunities. She would have blistered at the thought women should stay home and go on strike. Instead, she would have said to get in the game and go to work. I agree, mom!  That’s what I did last week, and I am very sure my customers are glad I did.

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