Striving Towards Gender Equality: My Journey to Becoming an Ally to Women.
Several years after my mother passed, my siblings and I welcomed a stepmom, Betty Poole, into our lives. With any new family member, there is a period of difficult adjustments, but in time I developed a strong relationship with my new mom. Writing this blog post gave me a great opportunity to sit down with Mom and discuss her career journey. I left the conversation realizing there is more I can do to press for progress for gender equality.
Betty was a Lt Colonel in the Air Force and held a prominent role at Langley Virginia Air Force Base Hospital. She paired well with my Father, who was a pilot and Lt Colonel at the same base. Having the same rank and time in service provided them similar rights, responsibilities and opportunities. I asked my mom about her experience in the Air Force and if she felt there was an even playing field between men and women. “During the 70s and 80s, there was a strong call for greater awareness of gender issues,” she said. “The Armed Services, especially the Air Force, was on the forefront of progressive change in this area, and my career was a testament to this progress.” Not all was equal, she explained. Female pilots, for example, were a new concept in her years, and while they have more female pilots today, there is still opportunity to develop more women for these coveted positions.
My stepmom’s journey was undoubtedly more challenging than my dad’s. While navigating a male-dominated work environment, she excelled in her career. She managed the demanding responsibilities of an Officer while also juggling her new role as a new mom to three spirited teenagers. At home and professionally, she and my dad worked as equals, but I’m convinced the burden of new family stress made her journey more difficult than his.
While my mom experienced a certain level of parity with her male counterparts, she recognizes this is not always the case for women. Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities across all sectors of society, and when aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favored. While progress has been made in our society over the last few decades, there are plenty of examples that prove progress is still needed. Over a 25-year Caterpillar career, I’ve had the fortune to live and work in several locations. While my work experiences were overwhelmingly positive, I have also witnessed numerous instances of gender bias.
The construction industry, like the military, has historically been male-dominated, making the potential for gender bias greater. Despite, these challenges, one does not have to look far to find successful women in this field. Over my years in this industry, I’ve worked with many successful women – customers, dealer employees, colleagues at Caterpillar. In our industry especially, male leadership in supporting equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender or difference is essential
Writing this post has benefited me the most. The time I spent with my Mom reliving her career was a blessing and gave me a deeper appreciation for the challenges she overcame in her life journey. It also helped me realize I need to do more in my position to eliminate unconscious bias. Talented women in this industry must be developed to help lead and continue to make this company successful. I commit to supporting the #PressforProgress initiative. I will be purposeful in my commitment, supporting the visibility of women through development, mentoring and coaching. I’ll challenge bias and stereotypes in and out of the workplace. I’ll help positively influence others’ beliefs and actions when I have the opportunity. I will support Caterpillar WIN (Women’s Initiatives Network) and other Employee Resource Groups advocating similar causes. Caterpillar is doing its part to stand up for equality and respect for all - I choose to stand with them.
Remarketing General Manager