Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Musings

Saturday was the day of my big Mother's Day celebration - my first full century of the season! Coach Tam (the kids' cross-country ski team coach) and I buddied up on Goldilocks 2014 and, I have to say, killed the course.  Keep in mind, of course, that surviving 100 miles is the same as total victory in our books. Extra awesome points for doing most of the last 45 miles straight into the 20 mph wind.

Yeah, we rock.

I love doing these big rides. I love pushing hard, having ample excuse to snarf down as many Oreos as possible, and feeling the satisfaction of doing something really tough. I love riding with friends and I love the hours of alone time to think and pray.

But you know what I love the most? My family's support for every training ride, every 6 am drop off, every sore muscle at the end of the day.

Steve and the kids were the Papa and Baby Bear organizers of the 55-mile rest stop and I have to say they were the cutest  bike rackers, bell ringers, and snack distributors (and consumers) on the course.  It was so stinking fun to look forward to seeing their smiling faces and coordinating shirts at mile 55.

I've been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, an excellent book about women and leadership (I promise, this digression eventually leads back to bike riding).  My journey follows many of the same stages as Sandberg's (although my own story has been several notches less glamorous!) and I've become increasingly concerned with the gap in female leadership in our world's companies, governments, and institutions. How will we build solutions, policies, products, and systems that are fair and good for all with 1/2 of the population vastly underrepresented?

Over the past couple of years I've gotten more interested and vocal about the need for women in leadership and especially women in technology - I'm tired of being the only woman in every workgroup! And through work with NCWIT's Aspirations in Computing award, DevFest Family, SheTech Explorer, and others I hope to invite more young woman into the amazing, exciting, in-demand, super-fun world of technical careers.

But will those young women choose technology and, even more importantly, embrace rich and upwardly mobile careers that bring them into leadership roles?  Right now, the statistics say no.

And that brings us back around to this Mother's Day.  Today I bear a renewed gratitude to the partner who makes it all possible - the bike rides, the career, our true partnership in our home.

In Lean In, Sandberg writes a lot about marriage and the importance of a spouse's support in a career and at home.
Of the twenty-eight women who have served as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, twenty-six were married... Many of these CEOs said they "could not have succeeded without the support of their husbands, helping with the children, the household chores..."

Not surprisingly, a lack of spousal support can have the opposite effect on a career.  In a 2007 study of well-educated professional women who had left the paid workforce, 60 percent cited their husbands as a critical factor in their decision.  These women specifically listed their husbands' lack of participation in child care and other domestic tasks and the expectation that wives should be the ones to cut back on employment as reasons for quitting.
Sandberg goes on to point out
Studies from around the world have concluded that children benefit greatly from paternal involvement.  Research over the last forty years has consistently found that in comparison to children with less-involved fathers, children with involved and loving fathers have higher levels of psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities.  When fathers provide even just routine child care, children have higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates. Their children even tend to be more empethetic and socially competent.  These findings hold true for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds, whether or not the mother is highly involved.
I have to agree with Sandberg's advice in choosing a husband:
When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is... when it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated, and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.
This Mother's Day I am filled with gratitude - for my kids, the astounding home and life we're blessed with, and our history and future as a family.  And I'm especially thankful for Steve. I am so grateful for a man who celebrates my successes, loves (not just puts up with, but loves!) the fact that I'm smart and ambitious and driven, and truly does embrace his pivotal, irreplaceable role in our home. Sandberg is right - over time, nothing is sexier.

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