“You should consider this as a career, they make $14,000 per year, and that’s pretty good for a woman.”
As I think about International Women’s Day, I reflect on a time when I met with my high school guidance counsellor. It was 1980, I was seventeen years old, in grade 11. The purpose of my appointment was to pick my courses for the following school year. I was one of those students who had been fortunate to obtain good grades and I had been recognized as a student leader for many activities. As I entered my senior year, I wanted to make sure that I was preparing myself for the future.
I knew that both math and science were important, as was the emerging field of computer science. I enjoyed English and French, as well as Family Studies and Phys Ed. I laid out my interests and explained that my goal was to plan an educational path that would equip me for post-secondary education and a “good” job in the future.
Essentially ignoring what I had presented the guidance counsellor took out a book that listed various jobs and pointed to a lackluster job and with confidence he said, “You should consider this as a career, they make $14,000 per year, and that’s pretty good for a woman.”
Completely ignoring my strengths, interests and leadership qualities, he presented an idea that in his mind, “was good enough for a woman”. Wow.
I knew that what he had just presented to me, was unfair and biased. As a matter of fact, it was degrading. I didn’t listen to him. I listened to my own voice which told me that I was intelligent, strong and capable of achieving whatever I set out to do.
For so many years, we have believed that women have risen above the demeaning and belittling beliefs of past generations. Yet hearing the plight of so many women who have been brave enough to share their story, I wonder how far we have truly come.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. There is so much to applaud and at the same time, there is much work to do.
We have a call to action and it begins with our youth. Here is something to ponder with your friends, colleagues and other affiliates, “What can we do that will help young women to discover their strengths and gain confidence to set goals for success and become leaders of tomorrow?”