The Glass Ceiling

As I'm sure most of you know, on April 12 Hillary Clinton announced that she will be running for president in 2016. This is a BIG deal. Whether you agree with her politics or not, you have to admit that it is an amazing thing to see a woman run for president. This is history in the making and we are living the reality of a more just and equal world. I feel so lucky to be growing up in a generation that gives opportunities to those who never had access before. The voiceless are now being heard and the invisible are finally being seen. When I was 18, I witnessed Barack Obama become the first African American president of the United States. And now, to think that his successor could be a woman is just awesome. Hopefully, my girls will be able to grow up in a world where they are not discouraged because of their gender, race, or cultural background. 

I talked to the girls this week about Hillary. We discussed how what she is doing is revolutionary and has never been seen before. Since we have been together since October, the girls know a lot about how women and girls have been oppressed throughout history. They understand how even though we are capable, society has pushed us into thinking that we're less than men and undeserving of high-powered success. Hillary is a symbol of how far women have come. It definitely hasn't been easy, but Hillary has found a way to enter a male-dominated field and occupy a space that no woman has ever occupied before. To illustrate the struggle, I showed them this picture: 

In life, there are 2 ladders: a ladder for women and a ladder for men. Both ladders are challenging and both ladders require upward mobility, but they are not the same. The ladder for men is a normal ladder with the rungs equally spaced for efficient climbing. However, the ladder for women only has 2 rungs. While the ladder on the left is not impossible, it is definitely much more challenging and requires quite a bit of creativity to make it to the top. This ladder scenario is the reality for women trying to enter high-powered careers in male-dominated fields. In order to be the president, a CEO, or a business executive, we have to work 10 times harder to make the dream come true. And in the end, the reward is so much sweeter because we conquered the storm to get there. 

We also talked about the concept of the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling is a metaphor for the unfair system that prevents women and people of color from achieving powerful jobs. In order to put this more simply, imagine this: You're in a tall building that has tons of floors. You're climbing to the top and you're doing great but just when you're about to get to the rooftop floor, you are confronted with a ceiling made of glass that won't let you go up anymore. You can see the rooftop through the glass but you can't get to it. That's the reality of women in the workforce. We can climb the ladder to a certain point but end up getting stuck by the glass ceiling. I tell my students every day that the sky is the limit. There is no dream too big for what they are capable of. I know that's what I believe, but is that really true for my girls? Is the sky too big a dream for what they're allowed to do in this world? My goal is to train my girls to know that nothing can hold them back from achieving their dreams. Not words, not men, not social norms, not cultural expectations. We are in control of our own destiny. Let's not let the glass ceiling keep up back from fulfilling our true potential. 

I wanted to make the glass ceiling concept more "sticky" for the girls so we did a little activity. I gave the girls a large piece of paper and told them to write all of the things people say or do that hold them back from being their best self. 

Then, the girls stood under the paper to represent the glass ceiling over their head. On the count of 3 they shouted "I am a strong girl!" and broke through the glass ceiling. 

Yay! They did it! 

What glass ceilings exist in your life? How will you break through them to reveal the strong, empowered person that you truly are inside? 

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