It's no secret that I feel pretty strongly about women taking their rightful place at all of the tables of power. I suppose this unstoppable urge was rooted in me by example.
My mom chose to become a teacher. The day she graduated from college, she declared to herself that someday she would be Dr. Constance Youngblood. So for what felt to my baby brain like a million years (but was probably more like 15), my mom taught. 6th grade. Kindergarten. Challenge Center. She worked hard. She learned her craft inside and out. She earned her master's degree. She reached her fingertips for the next rung of the ladder and grabbed on. She became a principal. In my adolescent brain, I thought, "Wow. She did it. She's the boss." But she wasn't done.
She worked harder. She pushed. She earned a sterling reputation as being tough but fair. A good person to work for. Smart. Determined. While she was carrying the weight of her job and her family and community board commitments and instructing aerobics classes (yeah, she did that my entire life and continues TO THIS DAY), she wiggled her hand free again and reached her fingertips up for the next rung. She grabbed on. She became a superintendent. "Wow," I thought. "She's achieved her ultimate goal. She's at the top of the ladder." But she wasn't done.
While working full time as a superintendent, she decided it was time to fulfill her promise to herself. She started her doctorate program. My mom is an academic perfectionist. Nothing but an A will do. So she put in the time to not only get through her program, but to be the absolute best. All while excelling as a wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister, colleague, boss. She will be mortified by this but... she earned just one B throughout her entire program. And she contests that grade with all of her being. But I love that. She's not perfect, but that doesn't diminish how exceptional she is. In 2015, she became Dr. Constance Youngblood. The next year she retired, much to my father's long-anticipated delight. My mommy brain thought, "Wow. Finally she's achieved her lifelong dream. She can enjoy her spoils with the man who's been by her side since she was 15 years old. She can spend time with her granddaughter whenever she wants." But she wasn't done.
My mom is now a college professor. She spends part of her year in Florida (the cold part). And part of her year closer to us. But she. won't. stop. She can't. She has an unwavering purpose - to teach the teachers.
I am so thankful for her example. When I want to roll over and quit, I think of my mom. She worked harder, made less money, had two kids (instead of one), and elbowed her way to her rightful seat at the table. All along the way, she looked around and said to herself, how do I help others? How do I mentor young people, women, my kids?
She persisted. She continues to persist. Unapologetically. With an unbridled confidence that says, "Oh, you didn't know I belong here? Well, I knew. Glad you're catching up."
It's because of my mom that I refuse to apologize for offering an idea at work. It's why I try hard to share compliments freely and accept them with a thank you rather than disparaging myself. It's why I fight for women-focused events in an industry under represented by them, because together we need to figure out how to change the conversation so that we're all heard.
I sure hope you have a Dr. Constance Youngblood in your life. And if you don't, I am here. Email me. DM me. I'm happy to listen and share encouragement. Women are powerful as individuals. But when we link arms and do things together, we're a FORCE not to be trifled with.