As a kid, I wanted to see someone who looked like me doing great things. A role model who wanted the same things I did and by them accomplishing their goals, it allowed me to see my dreams were too possible. I needed to see strong, successful women to prove to me that I was not going to be tied to society’s standards.
So, I asked successful women in my life: What does it mean to be a woman to you?
Ser mujer significa ser débil o fuerte, feliz o infeliz lo que quieras escoger, pero saber sobreponerse ante cualquier situación difícil que la vida te presente, porque no debe haber obstáculo alguno para lograr lo que deseemos en la vida. Y con los años y experiencias te das cuenta que es una gran virtud ser mujer porque nunca te rindes y cada cosa vivida te hizo mas fuerte. – Elizabeth, business owner
See, being a woman means different things. Somehow it involves being nurturing, strong, brave, motherly, fierce, sexy, smart, and so much more.
It means carrying the weight of responsibility on my shoulders every day. – Victoria, nurse
Ser mujer es ser alguien especial, es sinónimo de orgullo y valentía para enfrentar cualquier obstáculo. – Claudia, stay at home mom
Another aspect I learned about being a woman is that people will form all kinds of opinions about you. I have to be nurturing but not viewed as weak. I should be strong but not mean. Brave but not like a man. Motherly but not overbearing. Fierce but not a bitch. Sexy but not a whore. Smart but not too smart. So, it was always confusing to me where the line was drawn. Never questioning who drew the line in the first place.
Well, it [being a woman] hurt because people have low expectations and they think women shouldn’t even go to college, but it [the low expectations] helped by motivating me to prove them wrong. – Ashley, student
The next thing I had to think about is: what should my career be? The only way I can describe it is with a funny video I saw. It talked about why women get paid less than men and it said it was because “men choose jobs like doctor, lawyer, and engineer while women choose to be female doctors, female lawyers, and female engineers.” Every time I hear that I laugh because it was something I was so attentive to when I was going to college.
How did being a woman help or hurt you in your field?
Being a woman in today’s world means I get to walk through the doors those before me fought to open and I get to continue to open doors for the women to come. There’s so much more we have to overcome, but I find it revolutionary to even exist in the spaces I have so far. To not only take space but lead as a woman in a system designed to keep me out is what being a woman has meant to me. We constantly make space for ourselves and continue to lead generations of women to come. – Leslie, teacher
I think it helps me that most people seem to prefer women therapists here at my agency. They see them as “motherly figures.” – Kelly, therapist
I had to think about the amount of money I wanted to make. I am already Latinx and now add being a woman into the mix; I would have a pay gap of 47% compared to a white (non-Hispanic) male (coincidentally, I chose the least paid field because I like helping people, but that’s another story for another day).
I’ve only ever worked in female-dominated professions (nonprofits, mental health and public ed) but I find it interesting that so many in upper leadership tend to be males. – Beth, professor
Being a woman definitely hasn’t hurt me as a nurse! My career has been wonderful (not to say I didn’t have my challenges), and as you know it’s a predominantly female profession, so lots of competition, sometimes favoritism, as you move up the ladder, but that occurs in any profession and leadership role! I have made some wonderful partnerships in the community! I would say that whether you are a woman or man, if you love caring for others and love the profession, it makes no difference what your sexual orientation is; your clients will love you and you will love what you are doing for all those you serve! – Wanda, nurse
My turn: to me, being a woman is not only biologically harder but emotionally harder. We are often dismissed, ignored, used, tossed away, and sought after all at the same time. And, because of this, we work harder, speak louder, fight back, and make our existence have meaning. I am a bilingual licensed social worker, which is rare in my field. I work in an all-female staff and we are excelling. I plan to open my own practice where women do not have to be scared of not being listened to or of being dismissed. I use my superpower of being a woman to my advantage. I will show people there are many ways to be a woman.
So, I ask you, what does being a woman mean to you?
Diana Franco-Galindo (MSW, LCSWA) was born in a blended Mexican-Guatemalan household straddling three cultures. She is an aspiring mental health clinician focusing on de-stigmatizing mental health and wants to bring awareness to issues surrounding substance misuse, and domestic violence.