There is always an element of folks out there who cry that we are dividing each other more by recognizing every different group of people, but I disagree.
At this point we have roughly 7 billion people in the world and they are each unique. That’s pretty cool if you ask me and I find that recognizing the differences that make us unique can be a unifier.
One reason I want to address this holiday is because I have been personally affected in a profound way by strong female leaders, both in life and work.
These women were mothers, wives, bosses, employees and, in some cases, warriors. I call that out because throughout history there was not always the option for women to follow their own path — it was chosen for them.
I am the father of two beautiful girls, they are identical twins and they light up my life. My wife and I are blessed (and challenged) by them daily. In June I get to experience it again with the addition of our third girl.
If I am being completely transparent, I was never a feminist. I didn’t think men were the superior sex, but I didn’t think the status quo was an issue either. While having girls has helped to change my thinking, the journey began many years ago.
I served five years as a United States Marine and enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of something greater. Now, the Marine Corps has around 200,000 active Marines and about 7% who are female. It’s a male dominated world where recent news has uncovered that misogyny is alive and well unfortunately. I don’t bring this up to shame the institution but to call out the opportunity for improvement.
Within this environment though I had the pleasure to serve under a female Marine officer by the name of Meredith Brown. At the time she was a Major and retired as a Lt. Col.
She was a no-nonsense person who expected results and demanded excellence. I recall how I used to write reports for her and she would pull out a red pen and begin striking things out. As she did that though, she took the time to show why the corrections needed to be made and expected that I wouldn’t repeat the errors.
Now you may be thinking, this lady sounds rough! I will tell you though, she knew what she was doing. I was a young man who needed guidance and she also saw something in me that perhaps I didn’t see myself. As a Marine she was tough but also fair to a fault. She was the first strong woman in my professional career and I valued our time greatly. We still speak to this day and she continues to give sound advice.
How does this fit into culture? Because as a society we have determined that sex, color, background, race or other factors that could be discriminated against are not how we should be judged.
We have deemed actions to be our judgment. Does this always happen? Absolutely not, but we strive for it.
If I had been an older man in a different Marine Corps, I would have never had the opportunity for a female Marine to lead me. I would have operated in a bubble and be unable to see another point of view without great difficulty.
So next time we have a day that celebrates a unique quality about a specific group of people I suggest we take the time to embrace it.
See something from a different perspective, walk in another person’s shoes, so to speak, and learn.
Culture is continuous.
Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley