It’s International Women’s Day, and I don’t own any red shirts. The closest I’m getting is a maroon button-down cowgirl shirt I wore to the George Strait retirement concert before he came out of retirement.
I could stay home and strike, but my CEO already gets the message that women matter, that equal pay is important. Our small business is 50% women, talented, ambitious, smart women, some who are moms and some who are single and some who are childless.
And then there’s the stay-at-home moms and the homeschooling moms who aren’t collecting a paycheck but work and work and work anyway.
So how can we honor and celebrate women in small town America today, how do we stand for women who might not work in as women-friendly place, who might be home with the kids or balancing checkbooks on the farm, who continue to keep things going? Here are five ways I think we can keep doing better for women in small town America:
1. Make room for all women
Some of us will stay home with our kids. Some of us will work outside of the home. Some of us have to work outside of the home. Some of us are able not to work outside of the home. Some of us love PTA. Some of us would rather write a check to support the room moms. Some of us love to work. Some of us would rather tend to things around the house. Some of us are struggling to get by. Some of us work to live more comfortably. All of us are operating out of our specific, unique design. Live out of who you are and who you are designed to be, live within your skin, and appreciate that there’s a whole wide world of variety among us, with particular skills and gifts, and celebrate that.
Stop judging the women who have decided to live a different kind of womanhood than you.
2. Help a sister out
Whether you work at home or work at work, being a woman can feel isolating. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you see another woman in need, reach out. Women in leadership have a job to do to encourage and mentor those who are looking to develop into leaders. Extend a hand.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to extend a hand beyond your small community, read up on Kiva – support women (and others) all around the world as they aspire to lead businesses and make a difference in their own small towns and communities.
3. Call out discrimination when you see it
Tucked in our placid little towns is all kinds of silent abuses, slights, snubs, and prejudices. When you see it, call it out.
4. Affirm each other
We all thrive on an atta-girl, so take a minute to send a note or text or call to a woman in your world who has inspired you. And do this often: that word could be the thing that helps another woman keep going.
5. Abandon “women’s work”
It’s time, small town America, to get over traditional gender roles. They aren’t biblical (the Proverbs 31 woman is All Women, engaging in commerce, raising children, sowing seeds, cleaning house, etc. and also she’s an acrostic poem), there’s no rule book that says thou shalt only wash the dishes for thou art woman. Women, dig into yourselves and listen for your passions, and then live out of who you are made to be – whether you are made to aspire, to create, to teach, to sow, or to support. Allow for ebbs and flows, seasons of life to shift from climbing the corporate ladder to downshifting into domestic life – all of this is okay, and all of it is sacred.
Men, recognize that you can both win bread and wash dishes. Sharing the tasks that make the house run is working together to build the best life possible is a sign of mutual respect and love.
We can do this. On this International Women’s Day, let’s shift our focus from criticizing how another woman leads her life to honoring, celebrating, and supporting other women. Ladies, we make up half the human race. We are worthy of celebration.