26. It’s about to be my year. Bring on the new new.
This is everything.
I just feel broken. And I don’t know if I can ever be fixed.
Earlier this month, Verizon Wireless released a video to spark dialogue for encouraging women to pursue STEM careers. The Verizon video followed a girl named Samantha, who shows interest in math, science, and engineering, but is continually pushed away from these things by her parents. Quotes such as “Don’t get your dress dirty” and “Maybe you should hand that to your brother” drive Samantha away from her natural love of the STEM fields, and at the end, we watch a teenage Samantha eyeing a Science Fair poster, then applying lip gloss and walking away.
Samantha’s parents aren’t monsters, and they aren’t trying to make their daughter unhappy by keeping her from pursuing her passions. The ambitions of these parents are never explicitly stated, but the concept is pretty familiar: girls should like different things than boys do. These parents seem to believe that encouraging feminine behaviors in their daughter will lead her to greater peer acceptance and, as a result, more happiness in the long term. The end of the video shows the viewer that this is not the case, as we end with a look of disappointment on Samantha’s face as she resigns to applying the same makeup that separates her from the boys who are allowed to do the things that she loves.
There is a lot of truth to this video. Every phrase that the parents say to discourage Samantha’s masculine behaviors is one that I have overheard in my life. These are truly thoughts that permeate throughout our society, and consequently, many women who might have pursued STEM careers otherwise do not. Today, the world is looking for more employees in STEM industries, and we will be hard pressed to fill those vacancies without more women in the industry.
But how do we change the trend? How do we teach women, as well as men, that your career goals shouldn’t be limited by your gender when we teach them the opposite all through childhood? How do we teach people to create their own dreams and reach for the stars when others around them are too busy dreaming for them, telling them who they should or should not be and what goals are realistic?
If we want more women to pursue STEM careers, it’s time to stop telling them that’s not what women do.
It feels pretty obvious when stated like that. It is not the easiest task though. Gender roles are deeply ingrained in our society. Many women grew up reading Cosmopolitan while their brothers played with Legos; both of these behaviors were validated for meeting their gender norms while Samantha was chastised for expanding hers.
I think it is time that our society starts considering what it means to be feminine or masculine. Right now, the concept of a gender spectrum is an incredibly popular topic. In a nutshell, this concept holds that gender is fluid, and that even though someone’s anatomical gender is, in most cases, female or male, that person very rarely enjoys exclusively feminine or masculine things. The truth is that everyone enjoys different things. Our differences make the world a more interesting place, and labeling these differences and imperfections hinders growth, limits creativity, and delays societal progress.
If your son picks up a Barbie every now and then, it won’t kill him. If your daughter climbs a tree, that doesn’t make her a tomboy—just be ready to bandage her up if she falls. Let’s do away with “boys will be boys” and bring in “kids will be kids,” and let’s see what our kids want to do. If we do that, I think we will be living in a world where men and women are happier to be doing whatever it is that they do.
Most of the world’s exploited labor comes from women. Women work in the sweatshops and the giant factories. Women sow and tend and harvest the world’s crops. Women carry and birth and raise children. Women wash and clean and shop and cook. Women care for the sick and the elderly. All of this - layer upon layer of labor - is what makes human society possible. Ripping it off is what makes capitalism possible.
There will always be someone prettier than you, someone with a bigger ass, someone with nicer hair, better skin, longer legs, a flatter stomach…I could really go on forever. But these are elements out of your control (or at least for most). What you can control is what you know. You have a brain that effectively functions in a way that allows you to make smart decisions that will always provide you with more than your looks will ever allot. Your self worth is more than your physical attributes. Because at the end of the day, you are not responsible for the way you look but you are responsible for what you know, what you do, and how you make people feel. It seriously saddens me to see women who cannot see their value beyond their physical appearance—whether its a positive or negative image of one’s own self. You are so much more than that. There is so much more to life than dependency on something so superficial. So deteriorative. So unimportant.
"The people who ‘learn by experience’ often make great messes of their lives, that is, if they apply what they have learned from a past incident to the present, deciding from certain appearances that the circumstances are the same, forgetting that no two situations can ever be the same…All that I am, all that life has made me, every past experience that I have had— woven into the tissue of my life. I must give to the new experience. That past experience has indeed not been useless, but its use is not in guiding present conduct by past situations. We must put everything we can into each fresh experience, but we shall not get the same things out which we put in if it is a fruitful experience, if it is part of our progressing life…We integrate our experience, and then the richer human being that we are goes into the new experience; again we give ourself and always by giving rise above the old self."
-Mary Parker Follett
When Mother’s Day comes around, I like to reflect on the relationship I have with my mother and the lasting impact she has had on my life. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mother who was supportive of me, but also set the bar high and pushed me to excel. While I often did not understand it then, I fully appreciate it now.
I see my mother as a woman with a strong, perservering character—a hard worker, determined, and a woman who more often than not puts others before herself. I was her first child. Her “minnie me” experiment—and I say that because if you know either one of us, you know that I am truly a “minnie Pranati” whether I like it or not (and I like it most of the time, just don’t let her know that!). As her first child, she has always made sure that I could experience opportunities that were not afforded to her and that would help me grow into the woman I am today—dance lessons, gymnastics, cheerleading, violin lessons, art lessons, swimteam, basketball…I could really go on for days. She gave me options. No wonder why I am so artistically and creatively confused as to where my true talents lay—she pushed be to the best at all of them…and thanks to her, most of the time I was. =)
When I think back on all the important lessons she taught me through the years, it makes me smile because I realize how her advice has shaped my leadership style and influenced the values that I try to live in my life, as well as trying instill in others.
“Believe in Yourself”
First and foremost, my mother taught me to believe in myself and follow my passion. She is a phenomenal little Indian woman with the mindset and endearment of Napoleon. My mother embedded in me that anything is possible and there are no barriers—not race, not gender, not cast—not anything. She understands the importance of believing in yourself and working hard to achieve goals. She knew what I was capable of anything and everything I did, and nurtured my confidence in my own abilities.
Participating in competitive activities soon turned into a career for me—“follow your passion…do what makes you happy” were her words. And I did. I transplanted myself to Chicago auditioned for a dance company and for the Chicago Bulls dance team. I did that for a year and I loved it. But I wanted to do more. I decided to pursue a Masters degree, and when I was nervous about getting into graduate school because of my inexperience, she stressed that a lack of work experience could not stop me. And she was right. When I completed my graduate degree and decided to shift careers—she was there, cheering me on. And now that I’m finishing up my second Masters degree—she’s still here. Just as supportive as she was when I first told her four years ago that I as moving to Chicago.
In so many ways my mother was and is ahead of her time. Her words and inspiration helped guide me. I hope she is proud that at the age of 25, I hold a successful position at one of the top risk management firms today, I am the owner of my own consulting firm, and that I am on the verge of completeing three degrees. But I know my mother, and I know that she is likely more proud of the fact that I’m happy and that I live my life the right way and my own way.
“Trust Your Instincts”
My mother has great instincts about people and life in general. She is the one that taught me how important it is to trust your instincts, your gut—and that your heart is usually right. I am just now realizing how insightful this advice is and that it has influenced my success in life. EQ (Emotional Quotient) is often more important than IQ in many aspects …in your relationship with others and your work life for sure.
“Always Give Back”
My mother instilled in me strong values at a young age and believed that giving back was a privilege and the right thing to do. I passionately share this belief and I am so proud to have the opportunity and ability to give my to my community monetarily and through volunteering by time.
I have always loved volunteering my time to help others—it is what I have always been taught. It is what I know. When I moved to Chicago, I made sure to find ways that I could contribute my time and services to those who needed it most. In my time here, I’ve raised money for charity through my work, spent time tutoring children, and have volunteered weekly at one of Chicago’s many homeless shelters on Saturday mornings. And even with those dedicated activites, I still hope to do more by starting my own charity that will impact causes that I am most passionate about in a positive way. I want my work to be personal and truly embody what I stand for.
As I reflect on the many lessons that my mother instilled in me (these are only a few), I hope she is proud of how I am living today, both in work and in life. Being a mother is a special job. And if you are a mother already, unlike myself, it is you that helps shape the values and character of the next generation. I know I am proud to be the daughter of such a phenomenal woman. It is truly one of my greatest merits.
We thought this would be a good Throw Back Thursday for today.
Some things don’t change…
Paul Ryan is “that guy”. He never admits defeat and gets to repeat his failed policies because “white male privilege” allows him endless advantages.
Any non-white, non-male, non-privileged person would have been told long ago, and by many sources, to STFU and “get over it”.