Thank Your Mother – She Paved Your Way at Work

Note to Mom: This picture's at least five years old. We should take more photos together! Happy Mother's Day.

Note to Mom: This picture’s at least five years old. We should take more photos together! Happy Mother’s Day.

This week, a couple of articles about women in the workforce have caught my attention.

First, the “1943 Guide to Hiring Women,” from Transportation Magazine found its way into my hands. The article offers up such ridiculous advice as:

  • “general experience indicates that “husky” girls…are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.”
  • “when you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside of the home at some point in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are incline to be cantankerous and fussy.”
  • “numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work for themselves.”
  • “A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick, and wash her hands several times a day.”

Needless to say, I felt cantankerous and fussy after I read this. But I tidied up my hair, re-applied my lip balm and washed my hands of this stupidity.

Later this week, Warren Buffet offered a refreshingly modern perspective on the topic of women in the workplace. In the May 20 issue of Fortune magazine, he expresses his optimism for the recovery of the American economy, noting that “Our secret sauce has been a political and economic system that unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree.” He goes on to note that we have succeeded in spite of our efforts to fully empower both genders. And he believes that we are now learning to effectively engage women as leaders in the workforce.

I was raised by a somewhat understated Feminist. Mom is a pretty fierce lady in her own understated and Southern way. When I was growing up, she worked two jobs to help make ends meet in our household. But they were jobs where she could still spend time with her kids. We tagged along after school where she was the Director of an after-school program. It was there that I got the rare experience of seeing my Mom juggle her role as Mom, teacher, social worker, bread-winner and leader.

Later, when I was in high school, I remember coming home and moaning about my boss wanting me to work an hour later. When my Dad caught the pronoun “she” in my whiny teenage rant he stopped me and said, “SHE?!?! Your boss is a woman?!” I laughed at him, of course. “Yes, Dad, my boss is a woman.” There we stood—two men with completely different worldviews. Where I stood, it was a non-issue that my boss was a woman. Where my Dad stood, it was completely foreign.

My professional experience and background have been completely different than my Dad’s generation. I grew up in a class of 27 kids – 20 girls, 7 boys. I went to college at a former’s women’s school where the ratio of girls to boys is still 3:1. Half of the bosses I’ve had in my career have been women. My business coach is a very successful woman. And I’m in a mastermind group where I’m the lone male in a sea of 25 very enlightened and successful women (pictured below).892076_514003961969782_2001088942_o

So I can’t help but think that Warren Buffet is right—the true empowerment and engagement of our female leaders has the potential to unleash unprecedented greatness for the world. But it doesn’t just happen. We have to commit ourselves to it. I’m proud that my business employs women at every pay band based on their experience – not their gender. I couldn’t have built my business without them.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think that many of these changes in our society are due in great part to the women of  my mom’s generation. So thanks Mom, for leading the way for your son. Knowing how to work with women has been and will continue to be a huge contributor to my success. And I have you, Mom, to thank for that. Happy Mother’s Day.