‘A Day Without a Woman’ Won’t Break the Glass Ceiling
I was present at the Women’s March on Washington, along with my mother and an estimated 500,000 other liberal marchers. January 21, 2017 was indeed a day where we came together in support of OUR Rights as Women. I’m not one for crowds, in fact they make me extremely anxious, but that day I made an exception. Not just to be a part of a movernt. No, it was much more than that. I wanted more than anything to participate in a historic march with my mother, a 63-year-old Second-wave Feminist.
Today, many working women will take the day off in honor of “A Day Without Women,” as part of the Women’s March movement. Most of these women are privileged in the fact that they’re able to take the day off. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that is flexible enough to let me utilize the day to protest. However, I find it counter-intuitive to do so.
I fully understand that the notion of protest is to exemplify the importance of women in the workforce, but here’s my issue:
My mother fought to be able to work. Why would I protest such progress?
It’s no secret that the business world lacks female representation and, more importantly, female leadership. Sure, it has gotten a bit better. But that’s only thanks to women like my mother, Judith Swedek.
Long before the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Judi took on the world of finance in the 1980s and 1990s. She fought nearly twice as hard as her male counterparts to reach Vice President roles at top banks on Wall Street like Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Citicorp. I’ve heard first-hand about the absolute sexism and harassment that took place (and probably still does) at such corporations. But, unlike today, women didn’t have the option to out companies the way Susan J. Fowler recently did to Uber in her blog post that went viral. Their jobs were on the line. Even today, most women feel silenced.
In 1993, Judi gave birth to a baby girl (me!) while working tirelessly on Wall Street. Just six months after entering motherhood, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She faced a lonely six-month-long battle full of doctor’s visits, radiation treatments, and two surgeries. The after-work radiation treatments left her exhausted, unable to enjoy time spent with her infant daughter. She was terrified of being stigmatized or treated differently by her colleagues and superiors. “I didn’t want to undergo chemo because I didn’t want to lose my hair and have everyone know,” she recounts.
“I was more afraid of losing my job [at a New York investment bank] than I was of the cancer,”
“I was more afraid of losing my job [at a New York investment bank] than I was of the cancer,”she said in a 2005 BusinessWeek article. In the same article, she says she wishes she had been less secretive.
No one should feel in fear of losing their job while fighting a deadly disease. With her last radiation on my first birthday, my mother has been a breast cancer survivor for almost 23 years.
Since birth, I’ve been taught to combat the glass ceiling. Lucky for me, I’ve also had an amazingly strong, persistent, kind, and brilliant fighter to look up to.
My mother fought to be able to work and provide for her family, even in the face of death.
I love my job. I love to create. I love to work. I love being a financially independent woman. I fight the system from within — not in the name of Feminism, but because that’s what my role model does. Instead of hearing “I have to go to work,” I grew up hearing “I love going to work everyday,” despite the condition or company.
I am still proud that I was able to stand next to my mother on January 21st. I am so honored to be able to say that I was standing with her when she saw her idol, Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, speak for the first time. I am so blessed to have a creative, caring, ruthless businesswoman for a mother.
Today I’m taking International Women’s Day to honor Judi Swedek. Thank you for fighting so that my generation can crack the glass ceiling a little bit more. Thank you for being a successful female leader and role model for women in the Big Bad Business World. Thank you for being a great friend, co-worker, leader, and mother.