Clearing out the old to make way for the new is a wonderful practice as we enter a new year. This time, as we graduate into a new decade, the teen years of the century, we have an amazing opportunity to find a better balance and create a different kind of partnership between men and women.
I believe that female leaders in the work world can lead the way in positive and exciting ways. It struck me, and with pride, I acknowledged our successes to date. While we have a rocky road ahead, any transformation worth its weight means twists and turns and boulders to be confronted. Yet, if we stay centered with our eyes on the goal of male/female partnership, we can and will change the world for the better.
Here is what happened as I dove into some dusty, old boxes. I found a journal, like really old. One my daughter wrote as a teenager. I did call and ask permission to read before I sent it to her in San Francisco. I remember learning my lesson about snooping a long time ago!
She is now married with two children. After balancing work and kids, she made the decision to close her business and be a stay-at-home mom till they were “launched”. That meant two years at home and I believe it was in part a reaction to the fact that I never stopped my career when she and her sister were little.
She is now ready to re-enter the work force and is keeping all options open. That means changes on the home front. I have watched as she and her husband have negotiated the unavoidable – the car pools, doctor’s visits, and yes, even folding the laundry. It will get more intense, and so what!
Now back to her journal. What struck me was the tone of her teen writing. I was surprised that there was so much of the old model from my own adolescence. There was still a quality of letting the male take the lead, of waiting for the phone to ring, of obsessing over the extra few pounds.
That was twenty plus years ago. I asked her what has changed. She seems much more willing to say her piece, to stand her ground. Here is what she said, “The great things you and your female colleagues did to stand up against “second class citizenship” for women both at home and at work really did rub off. I don’t worry about my daughter growing up with limited choices. I do also want her to see parents who talk about what is fair. That is what was missing from your generation”.
I agree. We are entering a time when one key is adaptation. New models of what it means to be a female and what it means to be a male are emerging. How are we going to create the dialogues that will lead to integrated ways of working and playing together? Can football and beer survive? Can frilly clothing and spa days survive?
The other side of adaptation is resistance. How many Dr. Laura’s will be needed to beat down the intended changes? How must the media rethink its role in selling the old stereotypes? We need some educated discussions about “Mad Men” and what we can learn from those days. What my daughter said is what the world needs now, enhanced discussions about fairness and partnership as we all walk the rocky, winding road of this teen decade.