He for She
As I age, I find myself taking on more responsibility and leadership in both my personal and professional life. My kids are getting older and their choices and environments require more wisdom, greater decision-making, and increased management, so to speak. At the same time, I find myself taking charge of my career and life work on an ever-demanding basis. As both a mother and a physician, I find myself making decisions all day, every day, and I am constantly seeking advice from people around me who are older, wiser, and more experienced in both avenues of my life.
So it was somewhat surprising to me that as I advanced in the last few years, I looked around me in my workplace and realized that this race I started out running with my colleagues where 50% of them were women, that is not the case as I glance left and right and see who is running next to me now. I am in a minority, as most of my work colleagues in leadership are men.
At a time where I am balancing the delicate work of parenting teens and preteens and even smaller people with administrative and research and clinical duties, the amount of women I can lean on who are 10 years ahead of me are scarce. Where are they? Well, that is an entirely different blog post (or maybe 10 haha) but let’s me say the truth: many of the people I lean on for advice and for encouragement as role models at this stage of my life are men.
I know this may come to a surprise to you. But it is very true. Don’t get me wrong. I take very seriously the responsibility to be a role model for other women. And I while many of much of what I write about and blog about pertains to women, I want to take a moment and recognize that much of the understanding, flexibility, promotion and encouragement I have received in my career is a direct result of aligning myself with some pretty fantastic men – who I call “he for shes”.
I recently read Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B”. In it Sheryl states that someone once told her that having an amazing dad is a “vaccination for life”, (paraphrased). I smiled because man, do I have a fantastic dad. He is DEFINITELY a “he for she”. He tells me all the time how capable I am, gave me a killer work ethic, taught me the value of integrity, and never made me feel like I deserved less due to my gender. I have definitely been “vaccinated for life” by being his daughter.
I have an amazing boss, and other male leaders around me who have pushed me forward and who value my voice. They have nominated me for positions, invited me to stand on stages, help me conduct my research, and work along side me on a daily basis. When I feel overwhelmed, they give me space and grace and all the things I sometimes need without having to ask. Probably the most empowering thing and most encouragement for me personally, is when these men come to me for advice, call me for help, or request my expert opinion. This says a lot to the women around them, and speaks volumes to the culture they are creating. They are silently saying “I value you for your talents; I am a he for she.”
I remember two hours after the birth of my first child, the delivery nurse who had been with me for what seemed like an eternity was pushing me in a wheelchair to the post partum ward. I was completely exhausted, extremely happy, and beyond terrified as I held 8 pounds of a tiny person would become one of the greatest blessings of my life. My husband was standing next to me holding umpteen bags in the elevator, and the nurse looked at him and said: “Every day you need to tell her two things: 1) Sasha, you are doing great. And 2) it will get better.” My husband, being the smart man he is, took that to heart. Even now when I come home completely exhausted, or beat up, or someone has tried to make me feel “less”, he will look at me and say “Sash, you are doing great. And it will get better.”
As a working mom, I struggle all the time with my personal drive to succeed and to change my little corner of the world both in medicine and at home. I am so blessed to have a life mate who never underestimates my talents or limits my possibilities. He is the single biggest cheerleader I have in my corner. Not once, in 20 years of being at my side, has he held me back or made me feel like I am not a terrific mother or physician, even when I am sure I have failed. He is proud of me, he understands me, and he pushes me to excel in whatever direction I am heading. I am so glad as I am raising three boys, he is the example they see.
As I strive to be a role model for women who lead others in their homes and in the work force, I am thankful for the men who support women and who give us high-fives and opportunities, respect and resources. We see you, we need you, and we are so thankful for you.
He for she. Be one, thank one, raise one.