A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Minnesota Monthly’s “Conversations on Tap” series, the theme being “Working Women Fight for Equality.” My boss, Sue Hawkes, was presenting on the panel and I was excited to attend. We walked into the LynLake Brewery (after only a brief complaint about the parking situation) and were greeted with a warm albeit industrial ambiance. It felt like the right space for what is disappointingly still viewed as a “progressive” conversation. Initially I had thought a brewery might not be the right fit for a group of professional women, but I must say I prefer that to the “shopping and wine” themes that so often accompany female events.
As the panel started to speak I could see the audience leaning forward in their chairs, nodding and even “mhmm’ing” as if they were in church. And I guess this was kind of like a sermon. The message wasn’t preachy, but it was something all of us women needed to hear. We need to have our experiences spoken out loud, discussed, and validated. Sometimes it feels as if we are alone in this fight and there is no possibility of winning. One of the statistics quoted that night estimated we would not have equality for working women for another hundred years. Although this was horrible to hear, the collective frustration and desire for change lessened the sting. I interact with strong women every day in my job but it was especially inspiring to have a space and conversation dedicated solely to this topic.
A mix of statistics and personal anecdotes kept the conversation flowing and topics such as performance reviews, wages and inequalities at executive and board levels were all discussed. What resonated with me most, however, was the discussion regarding women and our relationships with one another. As a young woman I experience female competition often. This occurs in various settings and degrees. There is competition regarding who is the most beautiful (by warped societal standards of course), thinnest, fittest, funniest, who is in a happy relationship and who has the best job. Although I try to avoid buying into these comparisons, I catch myself from time to time. I’ll find myself making justifications for not being better at something, or tearing others down so I don’t feel as bad. This usually occurs only in my head, but the thoughts are toxic just the same.
Moving forward, I am vowing to celebrate the women I know. I will speak about their successes and contributions. I will help them if they need it. I will catch myself when I get competitive and remember that the success of one person does not retract the success of another. I will open a dialogue if I see a woman I know doing this. When one woman wins, we all win. We need to lift each other up. The fight for equality is not one we can fight alone, nor one we can exclude men from. I am inspired to see and be the change for equality in my lifetime.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” ― Lilla Watson