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My daughter recently began her career in the finance industry. It is a traditionally male-dominated field, with women making up roughly 17 to 23 per cent of employees. Not easily daunted, she has tackled her position with tenacity, enthusiasm and humour. Her attitude made me think of this excerpt from Elizabeth Renzetti’s new book, Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls.
Renzetti’s advice for young women to live large and not shrink is right on the money. “And for the young men in the crowd, who already know by some strange alchemy how to be large and expansive, I would say this: Let your sisters in this world grow, too, and do not consider their growth to be a diminishment of yours. The world is not a zero-sum game, and there is cake enough for everyone. Be the bigger man, and welcome the bigger woman.”
I’m Shaenie Colterjohn, a brand partnership manager at The Globe. Over the past six months, #MeToo has dominated many of my conversations, but the most enlightening ones have been with my 23-year-old daughter and her friends. After all, isn’t it the next generations that will carry the #MeToo torch forward?
My daughter’s concern about the #MeToo movement is that the conversation tends to focus on shaming men instead of empowering women. My daughter is fortunate enough to be surrounded by great male and female role models, and she hopes soon the dialogue will shift from gender to merit; to know that if she’s promoted, it’s for her capabilities, not to fulfill a quota. She is keenly aware that for real change to manifest in the workplace, women need to be in the C-suite, they need to be in the boardroom and they need to be great mentors for both young women and men.
While men may frequent the headlines about some of the most heinous abuses against women, my daughter’s experience (and my own) has been that women can also be the perpetrators when it comes to the ridicule, belittlement and bullying of other women -- and men – in the workplace. Chitra Anand writes in The Globe that it can be difficult for women to come forward in the corporate world with complaints, regardless of the gender of their harasser. And instead of amplifying each other, women tend to compete for leadership roles. Hopefully as women become more comfortable and empowered by each other, this phenomenon will disappear.
Interestingly, a recent Angus Reid Institute Poll shows that “millennial men and women hold the most differing views of what is considered acceptable behaviour in the workplace,” according to a new survey. These results are not entirely surprising given the inherent differences in attitudes between men and women, nor do I think it’s necessarily cause for alarm. For men and women to truly evolve as equals, we need to be mindful and respectful of these differences in attitudes and the way we think.
When recently asked by a friend on how best to “fit in” with her new all-male team, I loved my daughter’s reply: “Don’t try and be one of the guys, just be yourself, be all woman. Show them how your unique female perspective and insights brings value to the team.” This is true progress. Men and women are very different, and only by respecting and valuing what we each uniquely contribute can change really happen.
What else we’re reading:
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child, but it’s particularly tragic when they take their own life. Eight years ago, the Windeler family lost their their son, Jack, to suicide while he was studying at Queen’s University. Compelled to help other students struggling with mental health, Eric and his wife Sandra left their careers and started jack.org, a national network of young leaders transforming the way we think about mental health and providing essential on-campus support. Eight years later, jack.org has grown to include 152 high school, college and university chapters with 2,500 trained young leaders across the country. I have volunteered at the jack.org annual cycling fundraiser held each May, and it was a profoundly moving experience. This week, Eric Windeler was named recipient of the Queen’s University Alumni Humanitarian Award in recogntion of his incredible work. Jack could have been my son, or yours. This article provides an overview of excellent resources available to parents to help start the conversation about mental health. - SC
Jonathan Pitre, a 17-year old from Ottawa, born with the debilitating skin condition called epidermolysis bullosa, died Wednesday evening. His mother, Tina Boileau, told the Ottawa Citizen she couldn’t imagine her life without her son, who she ensured lived a full life in a short amount of time. Her son went through daily baths in Javex bleach and salt, a mixture that attacks bacteria on his skin. As she helped him peel off old bandages, she’d often see her son wince in pain -- and sometimes uncover new blisters that weren’t there before. When the discomfort became too much, she’d make him smile or laugh, talking about his favourite hockey team, the Ottawa Senators.
This woman always ensured her son got the best out of life. Because he was often shut out of school sports, Boileau made a point of taking Jonathan cycling, go-karting or ice-skating -- excursions that sometimes left him with blood blisters, but plenty of pride and satisfaction.
Jonathan’s battle was public. There were updates about his most recent stem cell transplant and his bone marrow transfusions. Everyone knew that his days were numbered, but families and onlookers drew strength from his positivity and from Boileau’s unwavering determination to keep his final days fulfilling. “If he can wake up every day with a smile on his face when he has every reason not to, how can I not wake up with a smile?” she told the Citizen. - Shelby Blackley
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