This years theme for International Women's Day is #BreakTheBias, a topic I was excited to explore. At my core I believe humans want to be kind, accepting and supportive of others. However, when we don't understand others, we are quick to judge and label rather than listen and seek to understand.
We're all raised differently. We have different values, belief systems and ways of doing things. These differences create the beautiful, messy and complex world we live in. As we grow and develop we have the opportunity to revisit the values and belief systems that we learn from a very young age. By doing this, sometimes we find we've attached ourselves to these beliefs and values even when we are presented with new information.
Let me use a personal example to explain what I mean by this. I love both of my parents dearly, they have been extremely positive role models, support systems and advocates for me and for that I am deeply grateful. I've started to discover some of the values they instilled in me when I was younger have the opportunity to expand so they better fit how I want to live my life. For example: When I was growing up my father was expected (by our family and friends) to work, enabling my mother to stay home with and care for my sister and I each day. My dad got up every morning and went to the office and my mom fed, cleaned, taught and entertained us. In my family, dad's role was to provide (monetary/work) and mom's role was to care (keep us alive).
This family dynamic was expected and celebrated in my household and that's okay, it worked for my parents. However, because it was the norm for us, when I saw family dynamics that looked different, I was quick to judge vs. take the time to seek to understand how it worked for them. As I judged, biases were formed : Women = caregivers and Men = providers as just one example.
Roughly 10 years ago, as I was growing in my career and getting slightly closer to wanting a family of my own, I began to feel discomfort with replicating my family dynamic. Thoughts like...
"I love my career, I don't want to give that up" or "What would it look like to do both?" started to creep into my head. The judgment and bias followed..."You can't possibly manage both, how could you properly care for your children and continue to rise in your career?" I know many of you might be thinking that these thoughts are outdated, but because of the way I grew up, there were deeply rooted beliefs inside of me that I needed to revisit and explore before I was able to write new rules for myself and #breakthebias.
Personally, the process began with challenging the values and beliefs that I had grown up with across all aspects of life: gender, race, class, religion, career, family, etc. I had to ask myself what I had been raised to think and then determine, is that how I truly feel today? I also needed to remind myself that my parents weren't WRONG in their approach, but just because it was right for them, didn't mean it needed to be right for me or others. I had simply evolved, learned and grown and had new values, beliefs and ways of living that aligned with the person I want to be.
I am always draw to the quote, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better" by the incredible Maya Angelou.
For this IWD it's my hope that we all take the time to do three things to help #BreakTheBias
Revisit our values and beliefs - do they align with how we really want to be living our lives.
Choose curiosity over judgment - just because someone looks, acts, thinks, differently than we do, that is not wrong, it is simply different. Seek to understand why they feel the way they do and embrace the differences.
Teach - As we are raising our children, it's my hope that we explain both of these things (1. & 2.) to them. That our values and beliefs are going to shift and grow as we do and just because we believe something now does not mean that is how it will be forever. As we gain new information, perspectives and experiences we get the chance to re-think. The more we re-think and take into consideration differences the more we can #BreakTheBias.