Countries such as Croatia and Nepal elected their first female presidents, while women in Saudi Arabia participated in public elections for the first time in history.
These wins are wins for women globally, but they’re not enough.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s still a very thick glass ceiling for women.
According to Pew Research Center, women make up only five percent of CEOs and 17 percent of corporate board members in the nation’s Fortune 500 companies.
Although the presence of women in the workforce has been steadily growing, there’s still a persisting standard of women only relying on their spouse or significant other—giving up their financial and professional independence.
It’s crucial for women to advocate for themselves and each other, both in and out of the workplace.
Nothing changes the gender equation more significantly than women’s economic freedom.” — Gloria Steinem
Create a Healthy Mentality
It’s a tabloid story from last summer, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
Remember our good friend Josh Duggar—the family activist—who apologized last spring for his wrongdoing in the family’s child molestation scandal?
Well, just a few short months later, he confessed to cheating on his wife, a pornography addiction, and two paid subscriptions to Ashley Madison.
This all came out when Ashley Madison was hacked and, lo and behold, there was Josh Duggar!
Their religion notwithstanding—and the fact that Anna Duggar has done exactly what the church has told her she is supposed to do—this is a representation of women who diminish their own self-worth by staying in unhealthy relationships.
While I do recognize faith-based factors involved in this circumstance, there are many similar instances where a wife will stay with a cheating husband because it’s difficult for her to support herself financially.
Financial independence isn’t just about money—it’s about having a healthy mentality where a woman can be her own advocate, and in return, become an advocate for others.
It Begins with Family
Family is crucial at all stages of life, even if we think the opinions of our parents and siblings don’t really have an influence on us, they do.
They affect the way we view our accomplishments and failures, the partners we choose, and they most certainly influence when we decide to ask for help.
My parents split up when I was 18.
Truth be told, I was relieved when it finally happened. I was certainly old enough to see what was going on and I knew they both were miserable. I was happy to see they could go their separate ways and build separate lives…and finally have a chance at happiness.
But it wasn’t as cut and dry as that.
My mom—who stayed home with all five of us my entire life—didn’t have an income. She didn’t have a credit score. Not one single bill was in her name.
So, when she went out to live on her own, it was as if she were a college freshmen trying to get her first apartment without help from her parents. She kept getting turned down and found it really difficult to buy a car, rent an apartment, and even turn on utilities.
It was awful and I vowed I would never, ever let that happen to myself.
When I got married, I made sure half the bills were in my name, for that very reason. I tend to my credit score like it’s a delicate flower that needs thrice daily watering.
And I opened a credit card for the sole purpose of showing that I can manage debt.
It’s not about your faith or your very personal decisions on how to run your household or the very idea that you might end up alone. It’s about taking care of yourself, as an individual, and about holding on to your sense of worth and to your emotional responsibility.
There are many, many things that could go wrong that we never would envision on our wedding days.
It could be anything from the sins of Josh Duggar to a tragic accident that leaves you without a spouse.
Dr. Kelly Flanagan wrote this open letter to his daughter about her future husband. The entire letter is wonderful, but this part especially really hits home about independence and self-advocacy:
Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul—in that unshakeable place that isn’t rattled by rejection and loss and ego—that you are worthy of interest. (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won. But that is a letter for another day.) If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most important sense of the word: You will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.
Not only is it important for parents to educate their children on fiscal responsibility, but they also need to educate them on emotional responsibility to themselves—and to one another.
As a footnote, Dr. Flanagan mentions that he wrote this letter for his daughter, but also to his wife, who “who has courageously held on to her sense of worth.”
Positive Role Models Are Crucial
Think back to your childhood: Who were the role models you looked up to—in pop culture, in your school, and within your family?
Now think back to other formative periods in your life: Your first relationship, your first job, your first day of college, your first “real” job…we may not actively think about it but there are so many moments in our lives that truly define the path we will take.
It’s in those moments we look to role models without even thinking about it. It can be as simple as doing a Google search for an inspirational quote or reading the content of a woman we perceive as successful.
As women, our role models are crucial in defining how we approach life. In pop culture and in business, strong, independent women are the ones we turn to when making our decisions.
The Ugly Side of Competition
But there also is an ugly side that comes with being a woman—and it’s something men don’t face. Men can disagree and then go out for beers later.
Women, though, hold grudges. Of course, that’s a sweeping generalization, but it’s not as easy for us to get over things as quickly as our male counterparts.
Not only that, but I truly believe women are our own worst enemies. We shame one another to make ourselves feel or look better. And there is research to back up my belief.
According to a 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, female bullies targeted another woman worker 68 percent of the time.
There is something seriously wrong with that.
This is partly due to a lot of professions still being dominated by men, which creates fierce competition among the women who want to reach the top in their respective industries.
This competition takes an unhealthy turn when you factor in the “nice” syndrome, and fear-driven actions.
If you’re a female business owner, and you hire a female intern, how you treat her will absolutely shape how she feels about herself professionally…her entire career.
This is where being an advocate for each other comes into play. Instead of dragging each other down, we should be celebrating each other and giving real, constructive feedback when the time calls for it.
A Woman’s Responsibility
My parent’s generation and their parent’s generation thought feminism portrayed a nasty connotation. You certainly didn’t want to be considered a feminist because that means you’re not nice.
And heaven forbid a woman not be nice.
But things have changed and we all should be proud to say we’re feminists.
Put your hand in your pants. Do you have a vagina? Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said yes to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist. — Caitlin Moran,
A woman’s responsibility is to support one another.
A woman’s responsibility is to help our female friends, family, and colleagues courageously hold on to their self-worth.
A woman’s responsibility is to guard our own emotional health and help other women grow in that area.
A woman’s responsibility is to protect our financial independence.
A woman’s responsibility is to not judge other women and their decisions.
While I certainly am sad Anna Duggar has chosen to stay with someone who—from the outside–seems like a real peach of a guy (sarcasm font), it’s not up to us to judge her decisions.
It’s up to the women who surround her to lift her up and support her and her children.
That is our responsibility as women.
Create a healthy mentality so you can be your own advocate and, in return, become an advocate for others.
A version of this first appeared on For Bloggers, By Bloggers