As I step off the plane, a blast of cool air greets me. Brrr. I don’t remember the last time I felt cold. Not in Kansas anymore…and certainly not in Vegas either.
As the Word of the Week is about to shift from DEPTH to CHANGE, understandably, change is in the air…
Looking for the taxi icon, I see arrows pointing to the BART entrance. Hmm, I have no luggage, it’s a beautiful day, haven’t been on a train for ages, and it certainly beats the Bay Area traffic experience, so…why not? Or rather, most definitely should.
When we step out of our routine, our senses enliven. They do to help us survive, figure things out…or, in my case, remember to remove the BART ticket to open the gates. As I step onto the relatively empty train, I sink into my seat and survey the scenery outside. The train pulls away and I am instantly soothed by its rhythm and noises. As more commuters board, I note the San Francisco style…casual, comfortable, a bit understated and muted in color, tech savvy, and…active. Yes, pretty soon the small bike-designated area is crowded with bicycles and their fit owners.
Change cultivates our aliveness, enhances our vitality, and summons our intuition. I always write more when I am traveling (Exhibit A…), which reminds me I should change scenery more often. We all should. Endure the hassle, the inconvenience, and the expense of change when you can. Even a short ninety minute flight from home does the trick. Away from familiar territory is where we have the opportunity to change the most. So, step out. Step up. All aboard. Change is in the air…but it’s harder to detect if there is a ceiling above.
My heart starts pounding. As the discussant on the panel, my job was to “discuss” the speaker’s presentation so I hadn’t planned out my remarks in advance. As the distinguished law professor spoke, ideas and revelations swarmed to my mind. Amid the mental frenzy, a familiar sensation of panic threatened to overtake. Why now? I countered to myself. I am uniquely qualified to talk about this. I have a perspective that needs to be aired. But, within that opportunity was pressure. The pressure to pull it off. The pressure to prove my worthiness…yet again.
Tempted to tap the moderator’s shoulder and escape with some pathetic excuse, I stayed in the discomfort and instructed myself to relax. Even though I suspected it was all in my head, the discomfort was unpalatable. I felt like my chest was about to explode. My fight-or-flight mechanism was in full gear. Faulty or not, my body couldn’t distinguish between a real or perceived threat. Take a deep breath, I implored. Pretend like you’re about to teach class. Your mouth never dries up then, so why should it now? Tell your story, reveal your aha moments, share your…guilt.
Yes, what’s up with that guilt? Was this the source of my panic? My self-realization and, with it, a heightened sense of generational duty?
Where the previous generation propelled, I keenly realized mine had stalled…starting in the nineties when the gender gap stalled. What I had perceived as luck and even advantage to have the “equal” opportunity, gender bias and discrimination lingered…which I not only accepted, but proliferated.
Welcome back from vacation, Suzy!”
I remember my boss saying. We all laughed and I secretly vowed to never burden my team like that. A decade later, I experienced that maternity leave was nothing like vacation. Nor should it ever be referred to as such…jokingly or not. It’s not a woman’s fault her male colleagues cannot reproduce. (Imagine if they could?!)
Part of my bias acceptance and proliferation stemmed from my mother’s experience. In the 1950s, she was part of an elite subset of women with a college degree. Even still, her occupational choices were limited to essentially two professions (teacher or nurse) and neither was well paid. By the 1990s, in contrast, I was only limited by my imagination and my work ethic. I could sense her disbelief when I started to earn six figures out of business school. I attributed my so-called luck to both my ability and drive to…work like the guys. But, gender equality and adopting male patterns of success are not the same thing. To close the gender gap, women must stay true to themselves…and confident in their worthiness.
As I told my story about stealing away to check my BlackBerry on vacation, about thwarting social plans on my Friday night with a certain swagger of nobility, about priding myself as the only female passenger in business class, I saw women nodding and smiling. Interest piqued. Resonance. Glass ceiling, where? Oops, right there. The problem with glass is it’s hard to see…until you hit it. The problem with ceilings is they prevent upward mobility.
If we change, though, we can stop acting like a ceiling and instead become a gate. A gate allows passage. A ceiling does not. A ceiling is rigid and impenetrable while a gate is accessible and can be opened. Opened to a new generation to establish its own set of norms and values…even when those values differ from ours. Or, rather, especially when they do. Acknowledging the evolution, we allow a shift. And, the magic is in that shift.
Worthiness doesn’t come from what we do, it comes from who we are and how authentic we are. The imposter syndrome festers in the feminine belief of unworthiness. This self-imposed need to continually prove ourselves and to emulate male patterns of success will only perpetuate the ceiling, not lift it…and certainly not shatter it.
Become a gate. Create change around you, about you…and, most especially, over you. Change is in the air. Shatter the glass where you can in order to experience the air outside.
Dream big. Desire more.