Sometimes, it takes a truly dramatic event to bring the truth to light: we do not have to struggle so hard, and we do not have to struggle alone. I am still learning what it means to have mental health. It is not about a constant state of happiness or complete enlightenment; mental health does not free us from pain, grief, worries, or bad days; it only reframes our thinking about these struggles so that we can learn from the ones that are out of our control and do something about the ones that within our control.
Dealing with my own mental health issues also taught me better how to interact with others. We do not all interact and communicate in the same way. What I need may drive someone else’s triggers; what I dislike doing may be the way they prefer to communicate. I am still in therapy, and I am constantly working on myself. It has taken time, and will continue to take time, to unpack the events of my life, and realign them in a way I can move forward with.
We women stand in a world bursting with opportunity.
There’s not a job out there that we’re forbidden from trying. There’s not a position that we can’t be considered for. There are spoken intentions to place us in positions where decisions are made. In fact, companies, CEOs, politicians, the workforce itself, really seem to want to announce their dedication to the world. “Look, we hire women! We promote women! We listen to women!” We are now able to work full- time and be mothers, too. People absolutely understand that women have babies and want to raise them in addition to having a career.
The COVID-19 Pandemic proved a fact that really needed no proof: that women are on the frontlines when it comes to holding society together, keeping the engines running, and keeping the fires under control.
And yet, somehow, the problems we work so hard to overcome (microaggressions, systemic bias, serious pay inequality, and our shouldering the overwhelming burden of stress and responsibility for unpaid and/or unpromotable work) remain stubbornly in place. Putting women in the workplace is not the problem. Putting them on equal footing with their male counterparts is.
Gender equity begins with equitable hiring – that means hiring men and women for the same amount of money. But it also means that once they are there, both men and women are given the same opportunities. Women must be able to occupy an equivalent number of executive, managerial, team, and departmental roles within the company.
Gender equality means a more peaceful, productive, healthier, wealthier world. Men who accept and promote equitable gender practices are generally healthier and happier), they experience fewer mental health issues, and they have happier life-partners. Societies where men treat all genders as equal are more inclusive and peaceful, both inside their own borders and in relation to other nations.
We are all beautiful in our differentness, and our differentness lets us lean on each other in times of need. Someone else’s puzzle piece can complete your picture. That is what diversity and inclusion are all about.