What is your view of women in our society today, of the role they play vs the role men play?
I have been thinking about what I’ve heard among my Laramie female friends recently, some raw and real stories from local business owners, and I feel like women, in particular here in Laramie, have so much to bring to the table. We as a group can’t wait for somebody to make space for us, we have to force our way to the table, take a seat, claim ownership and act like we belong there and know that our voices are essential. Ladies: don’t take “no” for an answer! We need to see more balance between men and women on non-profit boards, the UW boards of trustees, and in the legislature… We have the ability to create change and goodness in society. For a multitude of reasons we don’t see enough women at the table, raising their voices and saying “I can make a difference, get out of my way.” I want to encourage other women to be powerful and to be change agents, and I hope I’m setting a good example for other women.
Looking around at the National Main Street conferences, eighty percent of the directors attending are women. Because of the nature of this job, there are not a lot of men in this field. And that makes me think about my first year on my job with the State of Wyoming, working as a historian out at the prison, I had so many people comment on my age and my gender. Over and over and over again. They would say things like: “Aren’t you too young to be doing this job?” or “I think this is the first time a women has had this position.” I never understood why those things were relevant to what I was doing. I heard that so often and I tried to brush it off and walk out of the conversation. Looking back, I wish I had called it out every time, but I was so new in my career… Towards the end I was in the position to get an advancement and my supervisor told me that he would never allow a woman to have the job that I was going after. I couldn't believe that someone had the nerve to tell me I couldn't do something, much less because of my gender! I went through the process of filing complaints with HR but nothing changed, so I left that job. Most people don’t realize that I left because I was told that as a woman, I would never advance. It seems asinine in this century, this time, and this place something like that could happen. It makes me wonder how many other women has something like this happened to?
Good question. Any final thoughts to our community members?
I want to take away the mystery: anybody can be as successful as I am. I don’t think there is a barrier for that. People around me striving and working to make the community better pushes me to do more and be better myself. There is room for multiple “powerhouses” to exist in a community, and for them to encourage each other and push each other to go further. I love collaboration. If somebody out there has an idea for our downtown, walk in the door and talk to me. It’s always so exciting when that happens.
And back to the idea of being real and honest, I want to ask people to leave room for both the failure and the success we all face everyday. What we express publicly may be different from what we feel behind closed doors. Most people would say I am optimistic, passionate, happy, always cheery, but I am an absolute closet pessimist! I have gotten my grandmother's worry gene like nobody’s business. Often, when I’m by myself I get sad or worried or depressed, although I never put this forward as my public persona. When you are this emotionally and passionately driven, the positive pushes you forward while the worry is a frenzy that cannot be described rationally. When I'm feeling down, I always go back to my favorite phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it”! At the end of the day, being a workaholic and finding fulfillment in my job provides a distraction so I don’t have so much time to worry on the one "oops" that’s bringing me down.
The best advice I ever got was from Jodi Shea, a local attorney and board member of Main Street. She is one of the smartest, brave, calm, and collected persons I’ve ever met. She said to me: “When you are faced with an annoyance, a problem(real or perceived), a mistake, a failure, somebody else projecting their issues on you, think and ask yourself: is this going to affect me in an hour, in a day, in a month, or in a year”? This question quickly puts the whole situation into perspective for me! If somebody walks into my office to complain about a bike rack location, I tell myself: “This is not a life or death issue, it’s an annoyance, and it might be an annoyance for a day or a week until we get the bike rack moved. It’s not a critical issue like, having to have surgery” (laughs.) And then I can let it go.