I am a proud woman working in the agriculture-food sector. It is an industry that has perhaps been viewed as more of a "boys only club" but women have and continue to play an important role in the industry, especially with many women-led initiatives like Ag Women's Network getting the attention they so deserve.
I am proud to have been raised by two strong parents who taught me I could do anything I dreamed of. Watching my mom on my family's dairy farm, working alongside my dad in the barn, and seeing how my dad treated her as an equal, was very empowering.
And because of this, I am proud to now be married to a man who appreciates a strong woman who is just as strong-willed, has just as strong of a work ethic, and can have an opinion just as much as he does. Andrew is the one who pushes me to be better and pursue my business endeavors including this one at The Passionate Voice.
Because I was also the oldest of four kids, I spent most of my days in the dairy barn with my dad and my brothers rather than spending time in the kitchen. To be honest, I still love it down at the barn with the cows more than being in the kitchen. This doesn't mean I don't love cooking or baking or keeping my house clean though. I love doing all of those.. and if you ask my husband, I am a pretty decent baker and cook (thanks to my mom who can milk cows AND is wonderful at cooking/baking!).
I am proud to be part of so many wonderful organizations outside of my day-to-day job that include committees/boards that are a mix of men and women and who celebrate strong women. There are also committees I belong too or events I attend that I'm proud to be associated with including Ag Women's Network, Lean in Canada and Women of Influence. I love what these events and committees stand for but sometimes I do laugh at the fact that while we talk about 'equality' and being treated 'fairly' by men, that we don't laugh at ourselves for having 'women only' events.
I am proud to have many strong women friends and mentors who come from not only agriculture, but from many other industries and places both rural and urban. Having a variety of friends and mentors from various backgrounds creates a wonderfully diverse network that you can rely on at any time. This doesn't mean that I don't have incredible male mentors and friends. I look up to my dad who, just like my mom, helped instill in me such powerful skills that I am so thankful to have as a woman.
What has become more and more apparent for me as I get further in my career, meet more women, address the much talked about 'glass ceiling' and soon enter motherhood come May, is that while we talk about breaking through this ceiling and wanting to be treated as equals, perhaps we as women need to self reflect first and realize that sometimes the only thing holding women are back... is ourselves.
[Tweet ""Sometimes the only thing holding women back.. is ourselves" - The Passionate Voice"]
I've never felt like I have been held back for being a woman. If I didn't speak up, its not because they didn't let me, its because I chose not too. If I didn't come across seriously enough, it wasn't anyone else's fault but mine. I think realizing this has been extremely powerful for me as a woman. I've never looked at myself any differently than my male counterparts which has helped me be bolder and more confident in what I want to say and what I want to do and accomplish.
Women are often held back because we hold ourselves back. Instead of wondering why men aren't inviting us to the table, invite yourself and sit at the head table, not at the side/back of the room as Sheryl Sandberg offered the same sentiment in her book, Lean In. Don't offer to take notes if that is what is expected of you. If you aren't asked for your opinion, speak up anyways. Think you have a valuable idea? Self promote like men do. Don't think that its 'shameless' self promotion. It's self promotion. Period. There is a lot to learn from our male counterparts. Yes, countries like Canada and the US haven't even elected a female Prime Minister or President yet but we're making huge strides to get there. I have faith that in my lifetime, we'll see it happen.
The reality is, is that men and women are different and sometimes yes, there are different expectations asked of women. We are asked to be tough yet sweet. Motherly yet stern. Be as good in the boardroom as we are in the kitchen. All while say raising kids and/or dealing with pregnancy. There are a roller coaster of emotions that women face that men don't. But it doesn't mean that women can't have everything (and more!) that men do.
Women, we need to speak up more. We need to be more confident in our abilities.We need to be loud and proud and in a well-articulated and well-constructed way. We can garner the respect of our peers, both male and female. We can balance it all as long as we set our own personal boundaries as to what "balance" means to each of us individually without judgement. Yes we face challenges, but we can't forget that men face challenges too. And most importantly, we all have opportunities available to us.
Women have all the talent in the world. We just have to make sure, that above all else, the only person who isn't holding us back.. is ourselves. Have the confidence to be the person you want to be and make the change you want to see. Have it all... and then more.
Happy International Women's Day, friends! #IWD2017