Today is International Women’s Day (IDW) and since early this morning I’m getting lots of messages on WhatsApp and social media congratulating me. Thank you very much dear friends and family, but IWD is not a holiday. It is a day to remember the call for gender equality that many women have been fighting since the early 1900s. Reducing march 8th to a celebration of roses, chocolates and pink cards is disrespectful and a sign that still, people don’t get it or refuses to understand the meaning of equality: “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities”.
Reflecting along these lines, I remember the years I worked as employment counsellor supporting women and newcomers to find meaningful employment in Canada. Assessing their employability, women and men usually mentioned the same barriers to employment: lack of local experience, credentials accreditation, communication skills, professional network, need to put food on the table, etc. Once the barriers were identified, we used to work together to overcome those barriers and create and effective action plan. With men, usually next steps were lineal. It was just a matter of identifying activities and resources.
With women, more challenges appeared as we continue our conversations: regular childcare, special needs parenting, need to find a survival job to support the family while husband finishes his professional certification, changing careers after a divorce hoping to find a job faster, domestic violence and many other circumstances that usually men don’t have to consider when they are job searching.
Today I also think about these months after I left Ottawa and I compare stories. I started job searching again and with lots of enthusiasm I already attended some interviews that made me realized something important: It is the first time I’m job searching with my autism mama hat on! An extra challenge “yay”.
I haven’t mastered yet how to use this hat in many other aspects of my life, and I feel like I cannot take it off me either during a selection process, because honesty is one of the many important values I bring to a job. I don’t want to be one person attending the interview and a different person performing the role, specially if I like the job and I feel is a good fit for both parts. I want to be honest but I wonder: At what point in the process is appropiate to wear my autism mama hat in front of a possible employer?
I already asked some fellow mamas and they said never. They tried but the opportunity was denied so many times that they ended up taking part time jobs in different areas of their expertise, survival jobs or becoming stay home mothers just because there was no other option to balance work, therapies and child care. Some are happy with their new role, but some of them feel frustrated and sad because their professional career was the last thing they own as individuals and they lost it.
Today, on March 8th I’m sitting on my client’s chair. Today I’m all my women clients who shared with me those extra challenges during the last five years. I wish I could have helped you better and I’m sorry because only until now I really understand what you meant. I honour you and recognize that your stories have inspired and encouraged me many times to keep going.
Let’s continue learning, educating and working together for an equal world, where we can balance work and family without quiting our professional expectations.