Torn Between Two Lovers

The song played in my head over and over…Torn between two lovers, feeling like fool, loving both of you is breaking all the rules…

The feeling gnawed at me. I didn’t want to discuss my dilemma with anyone for fear of recrimination or taunting. I didn’t want to explain myself. What’s wrong with loving both of them? I asked myself. I rationalized that it was acceptable because my feelings for them came from entirely different places. I was committed to one from childhood as part of a bond that connected me to a family and heritage. I was seduced by the other when, as an adult, I was changing and growing as I embraced a life in a new community. My loyalties, I insisted, were not divided. They just blurred a bit along a lifelong continuum.

But the world doesn’t like shades of gray. People take sides. There is a perception of right versus wrong. There is the belief that there can be only one winner. Boston versus Atlanta. Brady versus Ryan. Kraft versus Blank. Super Bowl LI was painful.

*     *     *

To distract myself and avoid choosing a side, I focused on the advertising instead. I was sure the multi-million dollar ads would impart messages that might last long after the final clock ran out. Sure enough, one caught my attention:

“What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

The commercial for Audi depicts a little girl in a go-cart racing against a group of boys. The voiceover is her father’s. My ears perked up as I processed his words. I immediately bristled. “How dare he use the words ‘worth’ and ‘valued,’” I yelled at the TV. “He could’ve just said ‘earned.’” Slowly it sank in. An ad advocating for equal pay for women. The father hopes his daughter will be valued – and subsequently worth – the same as a man one day. Aaaarrrrggghhhh! (That’s my primal scream.)

As one who’s never been “worth” what a man is, this subject has pissed me off for decades. I wondered (as did many others)…does Audi really pay its female employees the same as their male counterparts for the same work?

According to Forbes, Audi’s ability to walk-the-walk is shaky. To make matters worse, besides the topic of gender-based salaries, there’s an issue regarding “Audi’s track record on promoting women to leadership roles. Audi has no women on its six-person executive team. Its supervisory board (the German equivalent to a U.S. board of directors) is only 16% women. That’s below the already-low average of 20% for female representation on corporate boards of Fortune 500 firms, and significantly lower than BMW’s 30%.” (Shame on you, Audi. I am mortified that I own two of your models!)

To add fuel to the fire, various studies – run by erudite and credible consultants – have reported that women’s upward mobility and seats around the boardroom table have been limited by their own choices…choices to take time off to care for family and loved ones; decisions to have more flexibility and control over their time; the desire to minimize stress and avoid politics; etc. While all of this may in fact be true, I must balk again.

Here’s the situation. Organizations, corporations, firms – call them what you will – initially were created by traditional men in the image of their stereotypic lives. The hours, expectations, tone, pay, etc. were not created with women’s roles, responsibilities, or needs in mind. Nor were they created with today’s telecommuting world in mind. The solution is not for women to conform to men’s standards; rather the standards themselves are what must change. And, men – fathers – should stop hoping and start demanding – and implementing – a very different climate and culture of business.

To date, while a few have come close, only two men have treated me as a true equal. To them, my value and worth were clear; equal pay was assumed par for the course. But they are far and few in between. More men should be this way.

More importantly, women themselves must change. We don’t need fathers, brothers, boyfriends, or husbands to give us daily pep talks. WE must give them to OURSELVES and to our daughters. We must want more; expect more; demand more…for the sake of all women…and men.

Now, repeat after me: “I am strong. I am smart. I work hard. I am beautiful…nobody’s better than me. I am amazing. I am great.” Believe it. Don’t allow yourself to be torn between anyone or anything. Turn off the TV. Update your resume. Go buy a new outfit and a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. And #DriveChange.

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