Conventional wisdom tells us that children learn from the good example of their parents.
I learned three important lessons from my mother’s ‘bad behavior’ when she defied the rules of protocol and the male-dominated leadership of the Jamaica Civil Service Association by raising a topic that was not on the agenda in a meeting with the Prime Minister.
In less than 10 minutes, my mother secured an important policy change that gave women in management positions in the public service the same benefits as their male colleagues.
Three things I learned
1. Don’t ask for permission or forgiveness
Being disruptive doesn’t always have to take the form of raucous demonstrations in the streets.
My mother’s way of fighting for the cause was to secure a seat at the table, by getting elected as Vice-President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association. She chose to break the rules of protocol and made no apology for doing so.
I learned from her, to never ask permission or apologize for doing the right thing.
2. Know who holds the power
There is strength in numbers, that’s why enlisting the support of influencers is important. However, to win, you always need to know who holds the power to make change happen.
My mother was not discouraged by the unwillingness of the male-dominated executive to advocate for gender equality.
She knew that it was the political directorate that held the power to make changes in policy. Her ultimate goal was to get the Prime Minister’s attention and incite him to take action.
3. What’s in it for them matters too
My mother presented a gender discriminatory employee benefit as a blind spot that could no longer be overlooked.
Removing gender-based discrimination in the public service would reinforce the government’s commitment to women’s rights.
Appalled at the discriminatory benefit, the Prime Minister ordered the immediate change in the regulation.
On this International Women’s Day 2023, I am reminded of the most valuable lesson I learned from my mother:
None of us, particularly women, should ever be reticent about pursuing our ambitions or shy away from dissenting voices.
My mother didn’t just take personal pride in fulfilling her professional ambition or sit on her hard-earned status of being among the first women in public service management. The achievement of equal benefits for women continues to be her legacy.
Aspiring to positions of leadership is one of the best ways to fight for a cause and create meaningful change. As it has been said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.