Make Fairness a Fact!
What does it take to really achieve equality? OK, maybe that question is too broad, how about this one; What does it take to achieve gender equality in the Bahamas? That seems to be a bit better, at least the premise is not as broad. However, simplicity in structure does not make the question any easier to answer. For the record, I really had to think long and hard about what I was writing this time, especially since we just completed Women’s History Month. Yet it is impossible to move beyond this annual celebration of the global contributions made by women and not at very least state the indisputable fact; Women have made an impact on my life and the lives of so many of those around me in a profound and substantive way.
Why is it important to state this? The reason is simple; I am a better person, husband, father, and professional because of the diverse perspectives I have been lucky enough to have encountered. Having spent a significant part of my career abroad, I came to appreciate the simple concept that wisdom, value, and insight reside EVERYWHERE if you are prepared to take the time to look. Here’s the headline, some of the most impactful mentors, coaches, and leaders I have had in my career were the intelligent, insightful, character-laden, and compassionate women I have had the opportunity to work for, or alongside. The importance of this declaration is simple, I have three daughters and it is imperative for me that they fully appreciate that their value and their worth is not contingent on the value I personally place on them, but the value they place on themselves. I have always viewed my job as one of the persons that assure the creation and maintenance of an environment that reinforces the belief that happiness and success are on them (my girls), and we (mom and dad) are here to make sure they have all the love and support necessary to achieve those goals, whatever they are. However, as I prepare to watch my twin daughters graduate from high school, I am reminded that they are leaders, who are fierce and vocal, no-nonsense, strong-willed and opinionated, respectful and humble, hardworking and courageous, compassionate and caring. All terms that, one associate's with tremendous people, traits they share with all the amazing female leaders and colleagues I have had the pleasure to work with. Which is one of the reasons why it is so important for me to say that as a citizen of my country, The Bahamas; we could be doing do so much better than we are on this issue.
Looking around at so many of the hard-fought civil rights battles and national victories that were achieved in no small way by the efforts of so many women, it is difficult to swallow that after the sacrifice of so much, there is still so much to fight for. While there have been great strides towards the achievement of equity and diversity in the workplace, women still fight for even a modicum of respect. How many have felt so shortchanged and pressured to compete, that they have even felt it was dangerous to have or even consider starting a family for fear of being left behind. Or the constant insult, that because she is a woman, she could not make the tough decisions or make the “hard calls.” Moreover, I have watched with horror as friends and colleagues have fought through personal setback after personal setback, because of chauvinism and misogynistic attitudes applied in the execution of personnel policy that has literally resulted in devastating loss. Sometimes, the arbiter of which were females who felt that the need to claim power was more important than the principle at play.
Over these many years, as my wife and I have raised our children I have watched so many women, sidelined or compromised because they felt convinced, they had to change who they were to fit in or get ahead. Unfortunately, believing that their success was somehow contingent on some man, uncomfortable in his own skin, needing constant reassurance of his own competence and personal greatness. However, just so that we are clear, for the record, I have been privileged enough to watch some exceptional female leaders not only make the tough calls, but they were the right calls; the type of decisions that age well. These individuals agonized and took thoughtful counsel like any other great leader; however, we would know this if there were more examples of such strong female leaders that stand up even during the most challenging of times. I genuinely believe that had these individuals been another gender; the tone, scope, and context of the discussion would be so different, possibly even unrecognizable. Which is sad, given our day and age.
It is at times like these we should be amplifying diverse personalities, opinions, and viewpoints, giving a platform to those who wish to challenge us to see further and to do more. Why pay lip service to diversity rather than champion it? We should not be seeking to silence them intentionally or otherwise, just because the alternative creates some discomfort in the status quo. There is a term for this phenomenon, it is called, “growth!” Having expanded beyond our current confines to incorporate new territory, stretching our concept of gender roles and responsibilities and understanding that anything and everything can and does change. This is why I am excited for the future my daughters are approaching because they will not and must not apologize for who they are and what they want to represent. They are strong women, and will always be celebrated for that! Today, I celebrate the many women who have made me the man I am and honor their sacrifice, their service, and their legacy.