Daring to Change the Story for International Women's Day

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On International Women’s Day, it feels good to take a few moments to think about how far we’ve come — because in a lot of ways, we’ve come pretty far — but it would be shortsighted to stop there.

There’s a LOT more to do.

We can celebrate our progress while still seeing how far we have to go. Once we’ve taken that moment (everyone ready?), it’s time to create our own kind of vision for what steps come next.

At Pepperlane, we’re working to create a society and an economy that’s intentionally built to be supportive and welcoming to all kinds of women, and all kinds of moms.

It’s time to delete the portions of the Supermom narrative that aren’t doing us any favors.

Instead, let’s use being a “mom,” however you might define the word, as a compass for how to build better businesses and lives. Both create hard work, and let’s face it — in some moments, that work doesn’t seem like it’s paying off the way we would want. Whether we’re stepping on toys in the dark, cancelling another meeting because of a sick kid, or watching our income stagnate while answering another hundred emails, owning a business and mothering both require a whole-heartedness, perseverance and patience that we can’t maintain 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No one can. You’re not alone in that.

You don’t have to be alone in mothering along with your business, either.

Our mission at Pepperlane is to create a better world for mothers. If we give more moms a seat at the table, we can truly transform how we all think about work and doing business. We call it building the mom economy. To put it to a cliche, we want this tide to lift all boats. And when we say that, we mean ALL boats, not just the bank accounts of our members. Making more money is great, but so is the expectation that we’ll be able to go to our kids’ school play instead of staying late at work.

Building the mom economy means bringing more humanity to business.

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The problem — one of them, anyway — is that so many negative connotations are associated with being a mom, especially in business. Attaching the word “mom” to any enterprise makes it seem cutesy and not-quite-serious to a lot of people. Mom business. Mom art. Mom music. Mom cooking. We still live in a patriarchy that wants to tear down anything that’s considered womanly or feminine. To most of our society, knitting is frivolous while baseball is sublime.

What if we turned this bias on its head, and built a movement where part of “momming” is a different way of conducting business? Instead of devaluing the mom part of your identity, we can create a movement that embraces our inherent strengths.

Let’s paint a picture of what this world looks like, where we leverage the unique gifts of the human heart instead of pushing them down and hiding them away from view.

Imagine with us:

  • Taking more time to be giving, kind and candid.

  • Knowing that you’re enough just as you are. That you don’t have to prove that you measure up or waste time constantly questioning yourself.

  • Accessing true flexibility. Imagine working in a community that extends empathy and can be clear about boundaries and needs.

  • Creating outside of the concept of “stupid” questions or ideas. Imagination and thinking outside the box are celebrated.

  • Feeling less alone. In this increasingly fast-paced digital world, we can take a moment to stop and get to know each other. Not with an ulterior motive, but just really listening to one another.

  • Connecting to an environment where people want to support you because of your vulnerability and imperfections, not despite them. Where openness is a strength.

  • Enjoying a safe space to focus on collaboration over competition. When we each come from a motive of support and abundance, there’s enough to go around for everyone.

  • Building up an International Women’s Day that celebrates the totality of who we are, and not just how we serve others.

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Most people feel skeptical about whether this idea of “mom economy” is possible, at least at first. I’m here to tell you: it is possible if we work together and have the courage to show up for one another.

Let’s rebuild how we think about working. We can break down old tropes and craft new ones that allow us to honor ourselves and our families. In divisive times, we have the unique opportunity to come together as a unified body. We can shift the narrative and the conversation by circling around who we are as moms and mom supporters. By being inclusive and showing each other kindness and empathy, we can create a space for all to believe in who they are and be who they are.

That’s our vision on International Women’s Day.

We hope you like what we see.

Written by Sharon Kan

Sharon is a mother of two daughters. She built 4 startups that were acquired by Oracle, Microsoft, Infor and Barnes & Noble. She co-founded WIN, the Women Innovating Now Lab at Babson College to help female entrepreneurs start their businesses. Over the course of her career, Sharon has mentored over 150 female CEOs and business owners. One fact about Sharon that you won't guess: she loves to skateboard when no one is watching.

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