Celebrating Collaborative Women

By: Jan Mazotti Issue: Collaborative Women Section:Jewel Of Collaboration celebrating-collaborative-women

When we initially went out to our network for story ideas there was a resounding response—some positive, some cautionary. We heard everything from, “That sounds like a really great topic—I love it!” to, “I don’t think barriers exist anymore.”

The theme of this issue is not to debate whether barriers still exist or whether women are better collaborators, but rather to celebrate the collaborations and successes of the women in this issue. Inside these pages are stories of so many talented, smart and innovative women who serve in many diverse roles and leadership positions. They are women who are recognized for their intelligence, contributions, capabilities, and performance.

As we prepared for this issue, Jeff Klein - author, entrepreneur, and ICOSA contributor and Rebecca Saltman, entrepreneur and regular ICOSA contributor, really wanted to write a piece on me and the ways in which I engage in my work and in the community. I begrudgingly consented, but then ran out of space in this issue. So, this letter highlights part of that conversation and gives you some insight on me...

I was asked whether I thought women should be recognized for their efforts and why I resisted recognition. My answer was because it’s not about me – it’s about the collective effort. I am a cog in a much larger wheel trying to support and spread change. None of it gets done in a vacuum. I absolutely think that women should be recognized for their amazing work, but, I think women often resist recognition because of guilt – especially to the rest of their team. We tend to be relationship oriented and when one gets recognition and another doesn’t, it tends to strain relationships. Then you are stuck managing the strained relationships instead of just doing the work. Really now, who has the time?

I think that if we collectively and collaboratively drive for change we can make it. We also talked about the wage gap. While in my opinion, women are absolutely making strides, it is important to recognize that the wage gap continues. In fact, women, on average, still earn only 77% of what men earn for the same work—even 40 years after the Fair Pay and Equal Pay Acts were passed. Unfortunately the wage gap widens throughout women's lives: women between 45 and 64 working full time only earn 70% of what men earn, and the disparities only worsen for minority women. In fact, in 2007 the earnings for African-American women were 68.7% of men's earnings, and Latina earnings were 59% of their male counterparts. Studies indicate that at the rate we’re going, the wage gap won’t be equalized until 2057 which means I’ll be dead and my daughter will be close to retirement!

They asked me about my role models and motivators. Of course, my mom is one of my role models. She raised my two sisters and me as a single mom and struggled to make sure that we had what we needed and that we had the best education. She has been one of the guiding forces in my life; she has helped me think through some absolutely stupid choices I was planning to make and has kicked me in the backside when I was scared and tried to back away from what I didn’t want to face. I am what I am because of my mom. Another influencer for me was Dr. Mustafah Dhada, who was one of my political science professors. He taught me so many lessons, but the most important was that “being there” was more important than “watching and learning.” He also taught me that one of the most important things you have to do in life is to “work hard and play hard.” I try to do that every day.

As we talked about collaborative efforts our conversation went to a different level. Collaboration is huge in my life and I think it plays a role in most women’s lives. In my opinion, women could not accomplish all the things they do without it. As someone said to me about this issue’s theme, “I like the 'collaborative women' idea very much...that's like writing about 'women women.'”

Jeff and Rebecca wanted to know more about who I was and what I stood for. That was tough for me to answer succinctly but we got it down to this... I am a mother, wife, daughter, aunt, sister, employee, teacher, community advocate, volunteer, friend, and neighbor. As a mom I try to lead by example for my daughter. I try to let her know that doing things half-way is no way to do something. I also try and reinforce with her that even if you are scared or think you’re not good at something – you just have to do your best – that’s all that you can do. In my mommy role I have learned that I can’t make her be what I want her to be, but that I have to support who she is. If I do that, she will be successful in her own way – not in mine. Furthermore, we are in the process of adopting a little sister/daughter. We are looking forward to having her come to our family. But I will say that being a foster mother in waiting is frustrating for me, as I’m not the most patient person in the world—but I’m learning. I have to continuously remind myself that things happen for a reason and that when “it is supposed to happen – it will.” As a wife, I try to be supportive of my husband because he is absolutely supportive of me, my work, and my volunteerism. He is a great guy.

As an employee, volunteer, and advocate I try and give 110% when I am there. If I commit to doing something I try to make sure that it gets done as best as I can. I am not one of those people who likes monotony, I like that every day is different. I like a challenge – especially when the consensus is that something can’t be done. As an employee, volunteer, and advocate I try and give 110% when I am there. If I commit to doing something I try to make sure that it gets done as best as I can. Even though I am not sure how I will directly effect change, I try and show up every day and do the work. I think that if we collectively and collaboratively drive for change we can make it. And, I hope that in some small way my efforts will “move the needle” for my daughter and her daughters in the workforce and beyond.

At the end of the day, it is not about credit or ego, but it is about knowing that you are making a difference in the way that makes sense for you—that you are influencing your community in a positive way. While I’m not rich, famous, or otherwise recognized, I am one of the most blessed people on the planet. I have unique rights that allow me to speak freely, have an opinion, vote, and make a living. Overall, I think we lose sight of the freedoms and blessings we have. Besides these freedoms – most of us have the basic necessities we need: running water, access to healthcare, electricity, education, a roof over our heads, food, relatively clean air, and general safety (and bras to burn).

I believe...you can’t take for granted the things that make us uniquely American women.