As women, we're conditioned to take up less space. Ask for less than what we deserve. Avoid conflict. Stay quiet and not make a fuss.
Black women are especially criticized when they speak up. They're perceived as "angry Black women" when they're just trying to ask for the respect they deserve.
I'm grateful to the women in my life who have taught me to stand up for myself and ask for what I deserve. I have worked with, interviewed, and known so many incredible women in my life...but I pay homage to these women on International Women's Day who taught me not to settle:
My mom: She taught me I had value from Day 1, when I was born with a cleft lip and palate and a club foot. She raised me to believe I could do anything with my life. Mom loved me fiercely and supported my educational pursuits. She lived in Germany after graduating from college and marrying my dad...and then went back to grad school when I was an adolescent and became a mental health therapist. Then she happily waved me and my sister off at the airport to live in Japan and China for a year when we were just 21 and 19. She taught me women could do anything men could do.
Nadine Gettel, MD, Dip ABLM, my little sister! She has worked hard ALL HER LIFE, and after working as an award-winning internist for a few decades, is now reinventing herself as a certified lifestyle medicine practitioner. Advocating for whole-health and data-driven preventive medicine practices, she is transforming the way her patients and colleagues look at health care. She is also an incredible person, mom, and wife, supporting her wonderful husband through a grueling throat cancer experience. I've always admired her intelligence, commitment to do the right thing, sense of justice, passion for helping people be and stay healthy, and her ability to stay true to herself. And I'm looking forward to seeing where this new focus takes her and all of us!
Karen Pressman: My fifth grade teacher, my favorite...I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She supported my first editing attempt when I changed our handwriting exercise that said "many great men made this country what it is," by adding "and women!" She affirmed me by writing "you are so right, Marie!" She also taught me about radical welcoming. When a new student from Taiwan joined our class who didn't know any English, he received an enthusiastic welcome from all of us.
Rev. Dr. Joanne Carlson Brown: My feminist theology professor at Pacific Lutheran University, Joanne taught me about feminism in the mid-1980s. The Color Purple and other intersectional texts changed my life and rocked my world. She introduced me to Doris Lessing, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Mary Daly, Cris Williamson, and many other badass women who knew their own value. I began caring about inclusive language, and I've never stopped. She gave me a name for what I believed: feminism.
Anne Adams: Anne was the first manager who recognized my leadership potential and promoted me into management, even though I was the youngest one in the Portland Publications Department. She taught me to advocate for myself and what I believed in...and that I could lead a whole department in my late 20s. When she left the company I was devastated, but her departure opened up a huge career opportunity and my favorite role: leading the Northwest Publications Group, consisting of 70+ incredibly talented professionals in 6 offices. Following her lead, I recognized and promoted into leadership many other young women in my career.
Brandy Wilson: I first met Brandy when the Boise office was joining our region. She was a 20something technical editor with a geology degree. She bluntly told me, "I don't need a supervisor." I explained I was not that kind of supervisor. Over the years she and I would develop a close, symbiotic working relationship, as I helped her reach her own career goals to become the company's first global sustainability director...and I eventually became her sustainability communications manager! A direct communicator, Brandy taught me to speak the plain truth, know how to pick your battles, and how to present difficult information in a way that gets through to people.
Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar: Laurie was my first-ever woman pastor, for 23 years. Raised in Libby, Montana; educated at Stanford and Harvard; and now the first woman Lutheran bishop in Oregon, she transformed our Lutheran-Catholic church into one that welcomes all, especially those on the margins. Sharing my commitment to inclusive language and radical welcome, she made it a top priority. She walks her talk in social and racial justice, intersectionality, and inclusion, now across Oregon and the USA with the other bishops. She speaks the truth, not worrying even if her voice shakes (thanks, Maggie Kuhn).
Elisa Speranza: Elisa was the first woman executive I met who emanated kindness, transparency, authenticity, and justice at all times. Making your way up the executive ladder usually requires being "political" and changing who you are. Elisa never did that. She was always herself, no matter where she was. She advocated for corporate social responsibility in everything CH2M HILL did, and when it was apparent others in leadership didn't share her beliefs, she walked away. She taught me the value of knowing what you believe in and not sacrificing your own values for success. I loved interviewing her on my Companies That Care podcast, because she embodies the concept of companies (and people) caring.
Jackie Capers-Brown: Jackie inspired me to become a podcaster. Starting out at Marriott Hotels as a housekeeper, she worked her way up the career track to become a general manager...on her own gumption, smarts, and hard work. At the same time, she experienced personal hardship and tragedy. Now she trains other women to reach their own dreams. She has always known her value, inspired by the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her own parents. She inspired me to start the Finding Fertile Ground podcast about people possessing grit and resilience. I was honored to interview her after she interviewed me.
Liz J. Simpson: I participated in Liz's year-long Big Money Movement coaching program last year, and it was a life-changing experience! Liz started out in sales (cold calling and door to door) and soon moved up the career ladder into management and executive leadership. She has created a powerhouse business coaching program that helps other women close millions of dollars in new business. She inspires and equips women to realize they can do this hard thing and be successful as entrepreneurs. She is one of the most elegant, graceful, super-smart, badass women I know...and she's totally fun and down to earth too! I admire her so much and miss being part of her program!
Cheryl Parks: Cheryl is on Liz's coaching team, and I often got one-on-one coaching from her. We clicked because we're around the same age and come from similar industry backgrounds (and the west coast). I interviewed Cheryl on my podcast, and what inspired me about her was she used to be SHY, but now she's a sales powerhouse! That gave me the hope that I could transform my own inner shyness to also be successful. She's also a natural coach, brilliant, kind, funny, and incredibly insightful.
Kudos to these incredible women for helping me to recognize my own worth and ask for what I deserve!
Let me know if you can use help with inclusive communications and leadership...or with internal or external communications, marketing, or leadership.
I help professional services firms avoid BORING and boost employee engagement, productivity, and readership. I translate technical, complex, and lackluster language into accessible, dynamic, story-driven text. Get known in your industry through outstanding thought leadership content. Walk your talk through outstanding, effective communications with your employees and clients.
Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified women-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.