Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Formal vs. informal pantsuits

My pantsuit isn't that formal. Instead, it's jeans with a flannel shirt and a puffy vest.

I started reading a copy of "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg this week and it couldn't have come at a better time. Today is a big, big deal. It is the day the first female president could be named to the oval office.

And when (not if) she makes her acceptance speech, it will be for all women. Even if they didn't vote for her. It shows that women belong in leadership positions. It shows that the gender stereotypes preventing women from getting top level jobs in corporate America now have a first - someone who paved the way.

I've always been ambitious. There's a fire inside of me that burns brightly. My sophomore year of high school, I ran a campaign to become the class president and lost. I figured it was my lack of skills or popularity and that the other candidate was way more qualified than I. I didn't figure gender was part of the equation. A man won.

I worked at a flooring company and because of my strong persuasive skills and competency, was moved into a sales position and then glossed over for a managerial position when an opening came up. They gave it to a man.

I applied for an executive director position and I was more than qualified for the position. My interviews went well. I was ambitious and eager to make things happen within the organization and deflated when it was given to a man. A man who told me later that if the organization blew up and they were unable to pay him, I could take the job for less pay.  Um, thanks?

So now the fire is raging inside of me. Now I'm inspired to stand up more, to exude more confidence, to put my name in the hat and not worry about judgement and whether or not I'm liked. I'm not afraid of the backlash for debunking gender stereotypes. I'm more than happy to continue paving the way so that other women have the opportunity to be bold and become the leaders they want to be.

I think that's why I was drawn to boxing in the first place. It was something women were told they couldn't and shouldn't do. But we did it any way. And as it turns out, we were good and it was empowering. Being part of the first women's world championship was surreal. I knew I belonged.

Then there was the madison on the track. Again - women were told we couldn't and shouldn't participate. I remember a colleague on a volunteer organization said I was crazy for thinking women would be interested in doing the madison. That year we had six women's teams compete. The following year we had 10 teams at a national caliber race, outnumbering the men. I love a challenge and I love proving a stereotype wrong.

So when a woman stands atop a podium in her pantsuit - it's for all women everywhere who aspire to step into leadership roles. Be bold. Be loud. Be yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world. And wear whatever type of pantsuit you want.

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