Women Are the Faces of Business
Last week I was privileged enough to be invited to the launch event for Faces of Business, the Women’s Initiative of the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce.The event was a panel discussion surrounding the purpose of Faces of Business: building success through integrating your business into a more gender equal world. The panelists were Jen Groover and Ron Jaworski, moderated by Janet Garraty, publisher of Go Jane News.A reoccurring theme that Groover brought up was that it is not the men that are holding women back in terms of career ambition, it’s women who are judging each other that are holding women back. It’s this divide between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers.She shared with the audience that as a “serial entrepreneur” and a mother of two twin daughters, she is often judged by other mothers if she does not attend certain school functions. She shared her first experience of this when her daughters were in kindergarten and a woman asked her is she was going to this school event and Groover informed her that she was not because she was traveling to New York for work. And this other woman looked at Groover and asked: “Well, where are the girls going to be?” Jen told her that they would be with their father. Ya know, the other 50% of the parenting team.Weird, dads are parents too? Who knew.First, Groover told us that nobody judges a man if he has kids and career ambition. Ding ding ding. Right you are Jen.Secondly, she said in these situations she usually re-frames the conversation. She will turn the judgmental question around and re-write the narrative:Groover: Why do you send your children to school?Fellow Mom: To have the best opportunity in life.Groover: Ok great, to do what?Fellow Mom: To do whatever it is they want to do.Groover: Ok great. So why are you judging me for being a trailblazer to create that opportunity for your daughter? Because she’s not going to just get there if people in generations before her don’t create the path. So we need to work together because I need you to be a stay-at-home mother because I want my daughters to have those opportunities, too, to have a great experience. So we have to work together and support each other in our community environment to actually lift each other up.Because Groover is successful, ambitious, and accelerating her career, her daughters believe that they can truly follow their dreams because they have a direct female role model in their lives who is doing just that. But at the same time, she recognizes the important work that full-time parents are doing as well. It’s a balance, not a competition. It’s about supporting each other as women in our different roles, not trying to create a singular identity of what it means to be a strong woman.Another big takeaway for me would be that Ron kept saying that it is “not about gender” for him in his business and that he would “hire whoever was most qualified for the job.” I could not help but think of a very well-known statistic that I originally learned from Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners at the Center for American Women and Politics, Ready to Run conference: women have to prove that they’re qualified (or even openly state it), while men are assumed to be qualified if they are running for office.I think the same gender biases carry over into other sectors and workforce environments.My foundational knowledge of this concept made me want to jump up and ask the panelists: What do you have to say about the fact that women are still not seen an inherently qualified to do the job?This is still something we need to work on. And a good place to start would be to produce more women in leadership roles so that we increase the number of examples of qualified women so that this truth of women as qualified leaders and workers becomes a well-known normalized reality.Groover advised the audience that she lives by a mantra passed down to her from her mother: You’re not allowed to complain about something unless you’re going to do something about it. You have to back up every complaint with a solution. She ended by saying: “If you are going to complain that some things are not equal in some playing fields (i.e. gender equality in the workplace)… You have to be willing to be the person that is going to affect change in your environment… be the one to stand up and say what’s the solution? And not create adversity around it but create unity around it.”
Kaitlin writes about current events, pop culture, and innovative ways to promote gender equality through online advocacy. Read more of Kaitlin’s posts here.