The purpose of this blog has been to have an outlet to share works-in-progress, design ideas, UX research, and other career related wisdom. This week I had planned to write a post about finishing my first two weeks at Amazon, one of the most admired companies in the world where being customer centric isn’t just a thing that people say, it's actually discussed and considered in every decision. A big part of the reason I chose to be an Amazonian in spite of other opportunities was because of their leadership principles, in particular the Bias for Action and Learn and Be Curious, which pretty well sum up my approach to my career. However, in light of recent political events I’ve felt it necessary to take a different approach to this blog post, and instead talk about what it means to be a working woman at a time when we are just now realizing how much work there is left to do in regards to gender equality and the need for seeing more women in a leadership capacity.
The events of the past week have forced me to reevaluate: to question my place in this country and my value to it. As a woman who chose a career and education over a more traditional path of marriage and children, this election in particular has felt deeply personal to me. As I wept Wednesday morning, I worried for my friends who are gay, are black, are immigrants, are of Mexican heritage, are Muslim, are women, or in many cases a combination of these things. I also selfishly worried for myself, and wondered if I could ever be seen as a leader, an expert in my field, or even an equal simply because of my gender. It has felt as if we, as a country, have chosen an anti-intellectual path, a path that isn’t inclusive for all people, and a path that gives into fear and scapegoating rather than moving forward with the social progress that has been made over the past 60 years.
This dark thinking led to a very painful 24 hours as I moved through the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression. And while I can’t say that I’ve reached a point of acceptance (that may never happen) I can say that I have been inspired by the women in my life who have shared, spoken out, mourned, and come back ready to do battle all over again. Immediately my friends started talking about ways to donate, to volunteer, to protest, to get involved in making a positive difference and fighting for what they believe in. Any thought I had about running to Canada or fantasy about transferring to Europe vanished as I had this epiphany: I refuse to be treated as a second-class citizen in my own country. In fact, I refuse to let any American citizen be harassed or disenfranchised in our country.
Because, dear reader, we females are more than Nasty Women, we are Amazons. Not like the company, but rather of the ancient lore. We are warriors and we are stronger when we are fighting together. While I still mourn what could have been and sadly, what now is, I have taken a few key steps to regain my sanity, and highly recommend them to anyone who is still struggling or feeling powerless:
If you can afford it, donate to the causes you’re passionate about, even if it’s just a few dollars a month. The education and poverty alleviation of at-risk women and girls has been a cause close to my heart, and finding and supporting the organizations that are doing this work seems like the pitch-perfect response. In light of recent events, consider supporting the National Partnership for Women & Families, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood. You can also donate through Amazon Smile, which donates a small percentage of your purchase to the charity of your choice. And no, I’m not paid to promote this; it’s a totally word-of-mouth venture.
There are so many wonderful organizations working around the country, and they’re doing really meaningful work at the local level. Two that I really admire are iMentor, which is based out of NYC and pairs professionals as mentors with at-risk high school students in an effort to help them graduate on time and apply for college. And the second is Girls Who Code, another amazing non-profit that focuses on teaching young girls valuable career skills for a demographic that is sadly underrepresented in tech. I’ve also benefited hugely in my past from the Horatio Alger Association, the American Association of University Women, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and I would be remiss without mentioning them.
Focus on your fitness
I'm not here to advocate for any particular diet or fitness plan, nor would I tell anyone what his or her weight, appearance, or exercise plan should be. However, I've found it empowering to take control the things that I actually can control. Working out is not only a great stress reliever, but it's also a way to reclaim ownership of your physical self. Meditation and mindfulness are other methods to try out if you're interested in taking control of your focus, attention and emotions.
Find your females
I’ve found that women have had a different reaction to this election cycle then men, regardless of shared political beliefs. Sometimes grabbing lunch, a drink, a coffee, a walk and a conversation with a fellow female friend, family member or coworker can feel very cleansing on some of the tougher days, where you just need to feel like someone else understands you.
Take a social media break, a news break, a toxic information break for a few days and go do something productive with that time. Read a book you haven’t made time for, sketch or paint; play a game, really anything to let your brain take a break. I deleted Facebook from my phone and its felt pretty good to not get riled up or bogged down in all the commentary.
Women are taught to smile and be nice, to laugh it off, and in doing so, we perpetuate the idea that we are okay with being harassed or talked down to. Even worse, many of us talk ourselves into thinking that ‘this is just the way things are’ and to ‘get over it’. I’m not okay with being mansplained to, belittled, assaulted or grabbed by the p**sy, and if I see this happening to other women I will speak up and fight back. By standing up for ourselves and for others when we see or hear something that isn't okay, we take small steps to fight for what could be, not for what is.
The best is yet to come
In summary, the one thing I can be thankful for is that a new generation of women who didn’t understand how much work was left for them to do in the fight for equality will be galvanized. Whether you call us nasty women or Amazons, we will continue fighting for more opportunity and equality for everyone. For everyone.
*This post is entirely my own thoughts and opinions and not meant to represent those of any company or organization.