When Women Continue to be Edited out

Runner_silhouette “Women are not dropping out to have a child. They’re dropping out because they have no opportunity.”

[Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, which promotes women for leadership positions]

This is a quote from a fascinating article that profiles Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, in The New Yorker.

I finished reading, thought about this post I wrote four years ago and had a chuckle over the heated discussion it generated online.

Guys got upset because I talked about women, some of the women who organized conferences for women at the time were all over it because they were the keepers of such lists, well established communication companies badmouthed me in their members-only sites…

It's not about quotas, it's not even about quotes.

It's about time we start looking at long-held assumptions and habits and become aware of them. I found that to be more productive. For example, who says all women want to have children? I worked at a Fortune 500 company where that was the exception, and not the rule.

Many of the business professionals I have the good fortune of calling colleagues have no children — and they have no desire or plans to have any. And it's not because they just want to have a career. Others do, and they are not holding back because of it.

There isn't one bucket where you can stick all women and call it "mom bloggers". Life is just not that simple.

Simply, women are still being edited out. There are a million reasons why this is happening. Do I have stories about names I've been called for believing in my abilities and not being afraid to step up to challenges! Why would I hold on to them, though?

They help nobody.

Certainly, it is more inspirational to follow the advice of someone who bears a high-level title at Facebook. Someone who found good sponsors and advocates and connected it with doing good work. If she says it, it must be truer, better, more real, than coming from someone in your work/life circles.

Herein lies the first problem. Why not look at success inside you? Then look around. Within your own family walls.

What's around you is the context that influences your identity and thought process first. Before society gets its hooks in you. Before others teach you their rules.

I'm having this visual from Moonstruck all of a sudden. Olympia Dukakis was amazing in that movie, so real. Just like Meryl Streep feels real in all the movies she's done. She's been my example of how to drive action without chest thumping. And Nora Ephron highly recommends having her play you.

I don't know these actors, so I have no clue what they live with/through to make it in on the big screen today. What I know is that there aren't enough of them to encourage diversity in role models.

The environments we work in are still highly political and divisive — from corporate America, to the agency world, to government, etc.

Yet, just asserting yourself is not powerful. Even doing double the work for half the pay is rarely enough to make a difference. Without a sponsor, or the means to get the word out, it rarely scales. What I said here is still true — networking is a lot more than a business strategy to advance our professional position

I suspect those are the reasons why social networks have become so popular — we do seek links between ideas, we search for like-minds, we develop friendships, and weave together networks of experience. The well-known alternative is unhelpful.

I got interested in the levers of influence, how our identity shapes us, and how we shape our world, coloring it with our own perceptions, to explore this apparent conflict between what we believe in — all created human and equal — and what we do.

After being online and building social networks for a dozen years, I'm still edited out. In subtle ways, in certain circumstances, to make it "fair" for others, because I'm not a geek, or because we need to be more inclusive of women (this gave me a chuckle on Google+ two days ago. I'm in there, talk to me!)

Buckets and lists — we have plenty of organizations and initiatives that are hard at work helping women lead and succeed. I'm interested in changing the conversation.

And you don't do that by just changing the ingredients. You need to make an entirely new recipe. It is scary, because the first real conversation you need to have is the one with your self.


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