Ladies First

All,

This Friday, I will have the honor of being featured as part of an International Women’s Day celebration at our local lululemon. As a female entrepreneur and a solo business owner of an emerging brand, the distinction certainly feels like a milestone.

The personal journey to this point has been a steep and arduous one that has occurred simultaneously with the passionate crescendo of the collective female voice across the globe. It has felt surreal and, at times, confusing. Because I have to admit that I often find myself – an ambassador for empowerment – standing on the sidelines listening to the dialogue on the women’s movement in need of translation.

Here’s why:

I grew up in suburbia in the mid-80s, when gender really wasn’t an “issue.”  A glimpse into my childhood toy closet would present an impressive array of Barbies (red convertible and all) right alongside an impressive collection of baseball cards (organized impeccably by team). The only notion I had of “girl power” was ingrained in me by the Spice Girls. I’ll let us all sit with the irony of that one for a minute.

My ambitions, at a young age, were lofty. But as I’ve written about in the past, the only counterargument I ever received from my parents about my hopes and dreams was the question “why?”  I can now see in hindsight that their rationale behind getting me to articulate the logic behind my decisions was strategic. To this day, I have to remind myself why I started upon every step of the climb.

As a result, as an adult, I have never walked into a bank or a boardroom aware that I’m a woman, even if I happen to be the only one in the room. Instead, I enter into these situations will full faith that I am the most qualified, deserving candidate they’ve encountered. And, correspondingly, in the instances when I don’t get what I was seeking, I have never once thought that I was robbed of an opportunity because I was female. Instead, I leave and ask myself what I could have done better. 

I ask myself “why?”

So this is why I find myself scratching my head when the conversation on female empowerment takes a tone of highlighting just what underdogs we, as women, actually are. I mean, in a world where we’re striving to free our young girls from the prison of princesses, here we are presenting them with yet another Cinderella Story:

You can have anything you dream of, my dear, but your fight is going to be long and oh-so hard.

Of course, this is not to say that we should replace reality with idealism. Quite the contrary, I believe we need to do a better job of empowering our female youth with the tools they need to identify and hone their own strengths, without contrasting them to any other gender, ethnicity or race. I just don’t see how we can have a real conversation on equality when all we’re talking about is differences.

When “life isn’t fair” is the tagline of the story we’re choosing to tell.

This is just my perspective. And I share it in the name of transparency and because it’s a viewpoint that has been directly responsible for my success thus far.

Because in all honesty, I can’t help but wonder: If my dreams had been greeted with warnings, would I have ever even chosen to start?

Onward and upward,

Suzanne