Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and a call to action for accelerating gender parity. As part of our #WomenInTech series, I’d like to share a letter I wrote to my daughter, currently in grade school.
In my first parent-teacher interview when you were just four years old, your teacher described how you could command a room, and predicted that you would one day run a corporation. Even at that young age, your natural leadership qualities defined you. Now, at age eight, you are starting to discover them for yourself, and deciding who you are and who you want to become.
As your mom, I see all the wonderful things you have to offer the world. I am your biggest cheerleader. I feel your wins, and your bumps and bruises, too, as much as you do. Sometimes I think I feel them even more. As you go through life, I want you to remember who you are and what makes you amazing. While you may not always like my advice, there are some things I hope you hear.
Throughout your life, your gifts — your voice and your ability to guide — may be misconstrued as being bossy. When your kindergarten teacher predicted you’d be a leader, I beamed with pride and then wondered if she was telling me you were difficult or overbearing. On the contrary, you and others like you were born to clear a path. Don’t dial back or change who you are to please others.
Don’t believe them when they try to hold you back from who you are or strive to be.
There will always be people–adults and peers, too–who will try to steer you. Be mindful of their words. Hear them when they support and encourage you. Ponder them when they question you. Don’t believe them when they try to hold you back from who you are or strive to be.
When you look around the room and find that you are the only girl there, stay. Don’t let doubt overshadow your abilities and passions. Whether it’s math club or a sport you love, stick with it, even if your friends tell you that there are far cooler things to do.
Don’t let them silence you. Know your values and adhere to them.
Although some may call you a chatterbox (myself included!), don’t let them silence you. Your candor and ability to speak in front of people — to be unabashedly open and creative — is what makes you you.
Being a mom has been the biggest blessing of my life. If you decide to be one, too, don’t let the world make you feel that you must choose between being good at work or good at motherhood. You don’t have to choose. I believe it is possible to be great at both. Work with people who give you the space, the support, and the respect you need to follow your passions. Know your values and adhere to them.
Chances are good that if you choose to climb the corporate ladder, there may be fewer and fewer women around you on the climb. Break free from old expectations — don’t organize the men in a meeting, don’t be the note taker. Replace roles that are long overdue for change with new, bolder and better ones. Remind yourself that you deserve a seat at the table, and help other women join you.
Know your values and adhere to them. Break free from old expectations.
That seat at the table won’t necessarily be easy. Success requires work and sacrifice, but work is a relationship, and as with any relationship, never stay when you are not being treated well. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you or your work is undervalued or you are being paid less for it. Use your voice to make change and if that doesn’t work, seek better opportunities.
Along the way you will stumble and sometimes fail. Believe me when I tell you there is great learning from failure. When I look back on my life I see that I have learned more from things going wrong than I have from things going right. Even on what seem to be your worst days, know that hard times will pass and that you always have me and others in your corner to remind you of your greatness. You will learn from your mistakes and grow stronger from these learnings.
Never stay when you are not being treated well, and believe me when I tell you there is great learning from failure. You can truly be the change we need to see in the world.
To my daughter, the chatterbox (and all our daughters), no matter who you are or want to be, define yourself and your world, and surround yourself with people who respect, inspire, and support your definition. If you choose to be you — regardless of those who tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t — and you seek to motivate others to do the same, you can truly be the change we need to see in the world. The world has a lot to learn from you.