What’s wrong with being confident? You’re gonna hear me roar. I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.
Rallying cries of the modern American woman? No, just recent lyrics by some of the world’s hottest pop stars. Demi Lovato’s done being cool for the summer and Katy Perry is so over kissing a girl. And Beyoncé already told us that girls run the world. So are we just living in a time when female artists are becoming socially aware or are we just becoming more sensitive to it?
According to Dustin Kidd, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of the Sociology Department at Temple University, there’s really nothing new about women singing songs with empowering lyrics. He lists Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking” in 1966 as a prime example. Of course, Madonna has been pushing the envelope with her lyrics for decades. And we can’t forget the Lilith Fair concert tour that started in 1997, named after the mythical first wife of Adam who refused to be obedient or inferior to him.
Kidd states that society is in part to blame. “The question is really why have we been so slow to listen to their music and let them challenge our social hierarchies, including the patriarchy,” he tells SWAAY. “The reason first is that men have a lot to lose and therefore work hard to ridicule and undermine messages that empower women.”
He adds that sexism often goes hand-in-hand with racism, class inequality, and other systems of oppression so many “privileged” women may be worried about when it comes to dismantling the current status quo. “Tremendous cultural and economic forces are working against these messages of empowerment,” Kidd says.
The difference now is the visibility of our current pop sensations.
But that doesn’t mean that these inspiring lyrics can’t or won’t have a real impact on today’s women. Especially in the wake of the recent election where America had its first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major U.S. political party, many women and men are having their preconceived notions of the status quo challenged.
Kidd believes that messages in pop culture become resources to help us frame our behavior and how we confront certain situations.
“If all the messages you hear frame a woman's purpose and identity in terms of a romantic relationship, then a break-up is likely to be devastating,” says Kidd. “But if some of those songs also tell her that she is strong and that relationships do not make or break her, then she has access to an alternative message that may help her confront a difficult situation.”
And a major difference between now and when Nancy Sinatra, a young Madonna, or even Ani Di Franco were shouting their messages from the roof, or MTV, is social media. Thanks to the advent and extreme growth of social media (in various forms and aimed at multiple generations), music is like an octopus with tentacles into everyone, everywhere, and at all times.
So maybe recent events have us opening up our ears a little more to what our favorite singers are proclaiming, but Kidd says that while the topic of empowering lyrics is very important, it’s really nothing new. Now it’s just up to us to figure out what to do with them.
Here at SWAAY we believe anything that raises conversation or pushes the needle, even slightly, is part of the solution towards gender equality. We hope women entertainers continue riding the empowerment wave, and release music and music videos that raise us up, one song at a time.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.