Visbility Matters: Gender Observations at a Recent Conference

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I have worked in my industry for almost 10 years now.  I am passionate about my profession and am proud of what I have achieved in my career.  I have experienced the “glass ceiling” a few times with different companies.  When that happened I simply moved to a different company, or location, and the problem solved itself.  Currently, I enjoy the corporation I work for, and ultimately believe in their vision and values.

From time to time, a few of my colleagues and I have talked about feeling like our workplace can be a “Boy’s Club”.  I have always thought that was something I felt solely based on the location I work at and that my concerns were not a company wide problem. Additionally, I have recently heard more and more about our company’s initiatives to better diversify and have more female leaders in key positions. This excites me!  The thought that my career could be fast-tracked to help diversify our North America leaders is promising and something I am very excited about.

Recently, I spent a week at a National convention for my corporation.  There were approximately 800 attendees in key positions from all over North America.  While the overall message of the conference was a good one, I felt baffled and frustrated throughout the week.  I have noted my observations below:

  • Presenters:
    • Total # of key speakers: 12
      • Total # of women on that list: 2
    • Total # of talks I listened to: 32
      • Total # of times a woman spoke: 7

Within the first few hours of the conference I was disappointed by the lack of representation of women on the stage.  How is that we could have a captive audience of 800 people and only 7 women presenting?

Throughout the week I thought a lot about the term “visibility”.  While I think it is great that companies have programs to support women, visibility matters.  If you want your company to be diverse, and for women to feel there is equal opportunity,  make space for them.  Make sure that you have women presenting and speaking at meetings.  It is that simple, if you want to be more diverse, then be more diverse.  Make a conscious effort to have equality in presenters and information.  Appeal to both the women and the men.  Strive for balance beyond one or two token women.

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Gender observations in travel 

I had a long layover yesterday in Dallas and thought I’d go for a walk/gender scavenger hunt in the airport. It was fun to walk around and look at different representations in airport gift shops.

Hope you enjoy my photo journey….

Kids t-shirt Unfortunately they didn’t stock the “Big Book of Girl Stuff” 

Where are the female action figures? Why is Kobe Bryant a super hero?

A Texas style boot shop. Not a single piece of pink or purple leather. Impressed!

I could have taken all day analyzing magazines but here are a choice few September issue covers:

Gender Roles in our Library

I LOVE LOVE LOVE children’s books.  Some of my favorite memories growing up include listening to stories before I went to bed, and reading books aloud to my Mom and Sister on road trips.  When I was pregnant I could barely wait to start a library of our own and pass on my love of stories and children’s books to my son.

I began reading to C from the day he was born.  We would sit in front of the fire, in his room, or on the couch looking at pictures and starting to formulate words and stories.  Now we have days where it seems that he would be perfectly content to spend the entire day on my lap reading his books.

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Recently I started to notice how many representations there are of mothers and their children in his books.  As we read stories together I have become more and more aware of just how many books are about Moms and how frequently a 2nd parent is left out.

This got me thinking… so… tonight we pulled down all of his books.  I wanted to look and see the percentage of mother figures that there are in his books as compared to father figures, or entire family units.

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  • Total # of children’s books we own: 77
  • Total # of books that include a parent or family unit: 31
    • Total # that  represent only the Mother/Child relationship: 22 (71%)
    • Total # that represent another parent or the entire family: 9 (29%)

While it wasn’t surprising to me that 71% of our stories, with some form of parental representation, are about the mother, I find myself wanting more diversity in our library.

I think that the maternal relationship is an amazing thing to celebrate and can attest to the beautiful bond that exists between a mother and her child.  However I have also been so touched by the interactions that I observe between my spouse and our son.  Seeing the relationship that they have is beautiful and I wish that we had more books that equally celebrated the strength and power of that bond.

When I think about gender equality, it is important to look at all representations of gender on both a macro and micro scale.  Something as simple as the stories we read to our children can make an impact on the roles that they will one day feel the need to fulfill.  I hope that we can diversify the books we share with our kids and find ways to show them, in the everyday stories we tell, many different representations of parental relationships and families.  Stories in which fathers can be nurturers and deep and meaningful bonds can exist between both parents and their children.

Moving forward, I plan to be more discerning about the books I buy and authors I support.  I am also eager to have an excuse this weekend head to the bookstore to see what I can find to diversify our reading material.

Rule the World

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I was out and about tonight and saw this sign.  It’s a bit hard to read but it said “Those who tell stories rule the world”.  I could not think of a more perfect way to end such a beautiful week.  I have been so touched and inspired by the reactions and support of my blog this week.  I am also excited for what’s to come.  I honestly feel that one of the best ways to drive political and social change is by telling stories and sharing life experiences.  I am excited and hopeful for all that’s to come with mamathefeminist and can’t wait to share stories from the amazing women in my life.

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My first guest post… yippee!

After reading my blog a super special friend of mine sent me an observation he had while shopping last night… “After reading your blog today I came across this at the mall!  Why would women’s shoes not be considered name brand? Men’s shoes were branded… Women’s and kid’s to the back!  Just another example of your daily struggle. Thanks for making me more aware of my environment.”

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Very interesting observation… all of the men’s shoes labeled by brand while all of the women’s shoes lump-ed together as “women’s” with a bright pink sign.  I also noticed the difference in variety.  It looks like the men’s section has double the rows of shoes…

I welcome any and all photos, comments, and observations.  When you are out and about I ask you to be “gender spies” and please send any positive or negative representations my way.  I would love to share!

Sweetie? Sweetheart?

I was dining out the other night and overheard a server asking his table what they would like for dinner.  After addressing a few guests at the table he turned to the last woman and said “What would you like sweetie?”  The woman was likely in her late 30’s.  I had an instant reaction to the comment but wasn’t sure how quite to identify it.  I am curious to see what you ladies think and welcome any comments you have!