Empowering women wasn’t something I grew up feeling necessarily passionate about, probably because my parents never made me feel like being a woman meant I couldn’t do anything and everything I set my mind to. Looking back, I always felt equal to my male peers growing up – but that all changed in November 2012.
On the first day of the first week of my Public Relations program, I sat in a small classroom with a man responsible for leading the Career Development I & II courses required to graduate. At the time, I was living in a hotel room because my apartment had been ransacked and robbed by the staff of that same building management company in what they called “a mix-up” and the lawyers called “get a settlement”.
But I digress.
I was twenty-four years old, newly a single parent, and – honestly – I was grappling with my decision to return to school with a toddler and, for that matter, a toddler who I couldn’t even have with me because I couldn’t afford childcare at the time. Suffice it to say I wasn’t living through the easiest days just then. The decision to go back to school involved leaving a job, leaving my kid behind, and – frankly – turning my entire world upside down, moving hours away from my support system.
I was called selfish. I was called a bad mother. I was called foolish. And I felt those things deeply, despite the other voices who assured me I was doing the right thing. That I was brave. That it would be worth it.
The Career Services Director asked me about myself. I opened up by saying exactly who I was – a single mother and successful Mommy Blogger, with experience in people management and community fundraising. My goal then was to work in the non-profit space as a fund development manager or traditional PR role. I opened up, giving my introduction and explaining why I’d joined this program, what it would mean to me and to my son. And he shot it down.
You can never tell anyone you’re a single mother – no one will hire you.
He explained that, to an employer, the words “single mother” meant I would be unreliable. Moms – especially single mothers – would miss work because kids were sick. Mothers, he reinforced, were less employable than non-mothers.
His words stung – a reinforcement of every doubt I’d had about my decision to go back to school – but they also lit a fire in me to prove everyone who told me I couldn’t wrong. Before the end of that week, I’d applied for my first PR job – with The Salvation Army Maritime Division. It was a part-time PR position, afternoons only, and it was my chance to get my son to Halifax with me, into daycare, and to really begin our new lives. I opened the interview telling them exactly who I was, what my experiences were, and how I would add value to their team.
A month after I started my PR program, I started my first job in PR.
I proudly entered the Career Services Director’s office and let him know I’d accepted a PR job and how wrong he’d been, filled then with confidence and the foolish belief that I wouldn’t experience this kind of attitude again. But I was wrong. And I did. From both male and female managers and colleagues. From sexist or outright sexual harassing remarks to catty behaviour, I realized the female experience in the workplace is not equal to that of our male counterparts. And that sucks.
In spite of those experiences, though, I’ve been fortunate to have found an incredible group of diverse and encouraging colleagues and mentors who’ve helped shape my career and me, as a person. The negative experiences juxtaposed against the uplifting and empowering experiences have lit a fire in my soul to help empower and uplift other women. On calls with my female colleagues, we candidly discuss our fears and our hopes. The fear of setting our careers back against the hope of growing our families. The fear of being unable to live both our personal and our professional lives to the fullest extents.
I am immensely proud to work for an organization that’s committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We have a team of strong, smart, and supportive women (and men) who find ways to empower other women to ensure they can reach their full potential. To celebrate our amazing team and the strong women who’ve helped us get here, Introhive is hosting a virtual panel discussion with female leaders from our company, IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Oracle. Join us and add your voice to this important conversation by clicking the image below.
And, if I can help you in your career – reviewing your resume, grabbing coffee, or just lending an ear… don’t hesitate to get in touch.