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I Am My Mother’s, Grandmother’s, Aunt’s, Stepmom’s, Mother-in-Law’s Daughter

This is a post six years in the making. It seems fitting to finally write it on ‘Women’s Equality Day’ (aka the 93rd anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.)

Six years ago, I was working for someone else but had just-below-the-surface drive and ambition for something more.

Today I am a CEO, founder and owner of my own company.

I am driven, ambitious, competitive, direct, outspoken and full of opinions I am completely happy to share with those who want to hear them. (And sometimes, those who do not.)

Because I believe in my voice, have confidence (still growing, admittedly) in my expertise and a desire to make a dent in the universe.

But until recently, the mantle of ‘female business owner’ and feminist was not one I felt comfortable taking on.

Blame it on my good fortune to grow up middle-class, raised by a working mother, supported by parents who emphasized higher education and in the era where Title IX gave me the opportunity to compete on sports fields so I grew to understand and embrace competition in other fields.

I never felt that I had to overcome anything or right any injustice because I was able to achieve whatever I set my sights on. The only obstacles I saw were ones I put in front of myself through self-doubt or not working hard enough.

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So when I became a business owner and my stepmom proudly sent me this poster, it didn’t resonate. The Art Nouveau painting by Evelyn Rumsey Cary is an iconic woman’s suffrage poster from the early 1900′s. I hung it on my office wall and appreciated its beauty, but not its message nor history. My mother-in-law and aunt-in-law were equally supportive and effusive in their praise of my business ownership, sharing their pride in what I had accomplished, reflecting on how rare it would have been to do so in their time in the professional world at my age.

I felt like a fraud. Here I was being held up as a woman business owner and yet I felt that being a woman had nothing to do with what I had accomplished. I started feeling a debt, a responsibility that I couldn’t quite verbalize.

Then I started seeing that I, and the other strong, vibrant, intelligent women I work and collaborate with weren’t always the equals I thought we were.

Yes, we could vote.

Yes, we could work.

Yes, we could buy our own houses and get our own bank accounts and loans.

But it also became very obvious that we still fell far below equality when it came to elected and appointed leadership at the local, state and national level; that the experts called on in the media and showcased as thought-leaders were way out of balance male; and that subconsciously, a disrespect of women as leaders still permeated our society.

This was brought home recently when a male peer that I admired referred to a group of women leaders – CEOs, Executive Directors, state Senators and Representatives – as ‘girls’.

So today I say I am a feminist, because I do support equal political, economic, and social rights for women. And I believe with all my heart, soul and brain that adding women to any conversation is vitally important. It is not that a woman’s voice is better than a man’s – it is that it brings a different perspective. And that matters.

My pledge moving forward

  • Never apologize for ambition
  • Embrace strong adjectives
  • Be visible and vocal
  • Demand respect if its not freely given
  • Live up to the legacy of those who went before me
  • Pay it forward and support those who come behind me
  • Lean the hell in every. damn. day.

 

Comments

  1. Damn well said, Jessica.

  2. Alisa Bondurant says:

    That was fricken awesome to read Jess. Thank you so much for sharing this. Love the lean in reference too. That book changed me. I not only often think about your achievements and strong reputation in the Valley, but how you are always, always giving back. Let me tell you, if ever I was in a PR mess, I would call on you and Red Sky. Not because you are a woman, but because you are really good at what you do.

  3. Ms. Flynn (I shy from writing Jess): What a great admission and action plan. Courage. Heart. Vision. Action. In my opinion, all essential elements of a great leader. Admittedly witnessed from a distance: I see those traits in you. #leadership

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