There is a photo I posted on Facebook a couple of days ago. It is the screen shot of my new schedule of my first MBA semester. The comment I put along with it was, “Can I just say how totally kick-ass I think it is that all of my professors for my first semester of my MBA are women?” I think most people got it. Some did not, and one of the comments I got was from the girlfriend of my father-in-law, who prides herself on being more progressive. She asked why this would matter and stated that, to her, I sounded sexist.
I remember when we moved after I had finished school. We had actually been homeless for a month before hand. We needed money. And somehow, after one of my first job interviews, I had a job making real money for the first time in my life. Complete with a sign-on bonus, relocation assistance, and other benefits. We went from sleeping in a fleabag motel with most of our posessions in storage to moving into a upscale, expensive rental. I did that. John didn’t have a job. But I studied my ass off as a nontraditional student in order to get straight-A’s, a list of professional contacts, and more, to set me apart from all of the other new grads in my field and land a good job. I was so proud. And when I called to get utilities turned on at our new, nice house, what happened? They didn’t want to turn them on, and told me to have my husband call back. I remember my response to this day: “Ma’am, I would be glad to have my Master call back, but when it comes time for a bill to generate and you expect to be paid, you will have to deal with me, as my husband doesn’t work. I am the head of this household.”
But it did something to me. That, along with my upbringing, have shaped me.
My mother raised seven children. Seven of the most ungrateful children in the world. She was married to my father all of her life. And she never had a job outside of the home. She did a good job, as we never wanted for a thing. I grew up with elaborate meals prepared three times a day. I never did laundry or dishes because my mother never wanted us to. Mom made our world go ’round and Dad footed the bill. But then Mom started to get sick. And by the time I was a senior in high school, she was too ill to take care of herself, let alone any of us. What did we do? We got her signed up for Meals on Wheels and a home health nurse. I was just a kid, still in school, but the next child in line from me was eight years’ my senior. And she lived right around the corner with her husband, didn’t work, and her children were in school. Interestingly enough, nobody had time for the woman who had raised them, who had surrendered her entire life to doing right by us. While I was at school, nobody could even be bothered to bring her lunch. She would be hospitalized and in the ICU, and nobody would come and see her. I would try to leave school, but by then I was a freshman in college and prohibited from having a car on campus, so I was reliant on family to get me home when the situation called for it. The night she finally died, however, they all remembered their way to the house to raid her jewelry box of the diamonds and emeralds (her favorite and her birthstone) that Dad had bought her in their 35 years of marriage. One sister even had her 4ct. solitaire into a jeweler for appraisal and sizing the very next morning. And what about Mom’s last days? She would cry because her kids didn’t come to see her. She was miserable because, once she had no more to give, they lost interest.
Never in a million years would I allow that to be my life. I don’t want it. She wouldn’t have wanted it for me, and I refuse to let her down. I am bound and determined to shirk the traditional gender roles and live my life how I see fit. You could call this selfish of me, but then I would remind you that I make my living helping people breathe when they cannot do so for themselves. And while this is most decidedly not a commentary on being a homemaker, it is a testament to the fact that, while my mother may have had limited choices, I do not. And I have made my choice. I will never buy into the idea that my ownership of a vajayjay means there is a damned thing that I cannot do in this world.
So life has taken me down many paths. I’ve had many plans, some of which have worked and some of which have not. Sometimes I have had to backtrack to where the road forked and take the other path. This is the case with business. I came into the world of business because my life took a turn when I was surprised with a pregnancy right before applying to medical school. Sometimes, I mourn that, but Zachary is amazing and I do not regret the path one bit. I surprised myself with an aptitude for this subject: business. I believe I can reach the top of my game. But if I do, I will be in limited company.
Let’s crunch some numbers:
15.4%= The percentage of female corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies, as of 2011.
14.8%= the number of board seats held by women in the same.
2.4%= The percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
22= the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 1000 companies.
Out of a thousand companies, only 22 have female CEOs.
(Source: Susan Gunelius @ www.womenonbusiness.com.)
With all of this in mind, I can say that it is “kick-ass” that all of my professors are female for my first semester of my MBA program. At a program that is competitive, nationally-ranked, and highly revered, at least in local business circles, these women are full professors, at the top of their game. I could say that there is a sparkling, crystal-clear ceiling made of glass that I would love to shatter, but these women have done it for me. For my mother, who died feeling like her life had no purpose. It is women like these who will ensure that my sons will grow up in a world where they do not believe that their gender makes them superior or inferior, but equal to their female counterparts. It is women like these who will change those God-awful statistics I just cited. And then there is the richness of the idea that, while women are so outnumbered in top business positions, they can make careeers of educating the men that edge them out for the top spots at these companies.
I thought the definition of sexism was believing in the superiority of one gender over the other, not the equality of the two. Am I wrong? Is it sexist to want more for your life? To have the personality that translates to the desire to challenge yourself and not stagnate? To expect that your gender will not hold you back and be happy when you find evidence that it will not? Is it sexist to believe that, because I have worked my ass off to improve the lives of my loved ones, I can do even more?
If this is sexism, sign me up.