Killing Me Softly  — A Gender Equality Issue

The guy stared at me with a grin on his face. He looked amused, a look that puzzled me since we were talking about my career and nothing funny had been said. “Well….You must admit that all of this publicity would not have been given to you if you were a guy. Right?”

I starred blank at him as this friendly “how’s life” conversation at my friends wedding had me completely thrown off. In a very subtle and almost unnoticeable manner he completely diminished my accomplishments. I’ve had this happen to me a few too many times; confronted by people who say that, whatever success I had, they are a result of advantages I’ve had because I’m a woman.

It’s the perfect way to have someone feel insecure and to have them continue questioning themselves. It’s what makes a difference between men who can thrive in their successes and grow their confidence while many women end up brushing them off due to comments like these. “Yeah, the need of a female face on that magazine is probably more valuable than my actual knowledge and accomplishments”…

I don’t feel like going into the details of the daily struggle it can mean to be a female tech entrepreneur. There are many and hopefully, you as a reader are aware of them to make a change. This though, is something different; this rocks the very foundation for an equal society to really take place. This is making sure women who have success in any matter should never feel they really belong there. That the success is a hoax and something we are now given, not properly earned.

The frustration gets to me sometimes. The problem is real and I don’t care that we are making progress — it’s too slow and I should not have to face people or comments like this. It’s simply un-real that we have not come further. I have given a lot of thought about why we are still in this situation and what the key events are to have a change and what I keep coming back to is the fact that teaching an old dog to sit IS difficult. We need to be better at giving ourselves the right start from the beginning. A strong foundation to build from with the right thinking and actions from day one. Here’s a few examples of what I mean:

  • Do not dress your kids in princess dresses and call them cute

What you hear about yourself becomes the truth. Having “tough, cool” boys and “cute, sweet” girls gives us very different building blocks from the beginning. Stop making girls weak and pretty — raise strong, independent and though girls — stop this:

  • Raise strong leaders who knows teamwork

Girls do dancing, horse back riding and gymnastics. Boys do soccer, lacrosse and ice hockey. Give that some thought and compare the two: individual sports where you compete with your friends vs team sports where you learn to lead a group of people, work together and help each other.

  • Share your parental leave

If 50% of the people on this planet are set to be OOO for kids and the second half is not, how do you think we can compete in the same market?

If kids only have a female role model the first part of their life as being caring and present while the other half is out working on his career — what type of example are we creating for the future generation?

But with all that said and the reason to why I’m posting this article today, the Most Important thing we need to do to have change happen is to raise boys with the right world view.

It’s easy to look at what differences we need to make for young girls to push them forward, and truth is, the biggest problem, how boys treat girls and their world view is not the top of our discussion.

All parents with young boys out there, make sure to check in. Make sure to talk to them.

  • Make sure they have strong female and male role models.
  • Have them play on mixed sports teams to have them learn how to work together.
  • Make sure they have both young girls and boys as friends and be really, really quick to correct any comments that can lead to their worldview being a divided one.

Hearing your accomplishments really is just a pat on the shoulder for being a girl is disheartening, especially when it comes from someone you consider being your peer. This comment did not come from an idiot. It’s not delivered to be mean or with the intention of pushing me down. It’s delivered from a man in his young thirties who thinks he’s pro gender equality. It’s simply coming from a man who lived his life with an idea that men and women are not equally good performers when it comes to the business scene. It’s what he’s been told and it’s what he’s seen.

Parents of the world. Let’s make it better for coming generations. Let’s get it right from the start. Think of what signals you are sending, how you are talking about careers and people and be very clear that police officers, successful entrepreneurs and executive directors can be both men and women.