How I became me
I didn’t start as a feminist.
I grew up in Southern California, that bastion of liberal living. I worked for companies in which I was paid equal to my male counterparts, real meritocracies – if you worked hard, you were rewarded. I worked for NGOs staffed primarily by women, so how could there be a gender bias? I believed, if we women had not reached full equality in the workplace, we were well on our way. We just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and we’d get there soon; nothing stood in our way.
I imagined women’s rights as an issue restricted to the developing world, that women in small, rural societies needed platforms and opportunities for advancement, that these women were catalysts for change and betterment in their communities. I never imagined I would need to fight to prove my worth because I was a woman.
In 2010, I decided to pursue my passions and moved to Israel. I worked with the military, a male-dominated place in any country, and blamed my workplace struggles on a culture clash. I didn’t speak the language fluently, and anyone will tell you Army Hebrew is a different language all its own, and I hadn’t worked in this work environment before.
Then, I took a job with an Israeli NGO. Six months into the job, I found myself the only woman in an office of men. These were modern men; Israel is a modern country. And yet, inherently, there was a difference. My workplace was high stress, for anyone – male or female, and did not boast an impressive retention rate. But to cycle through women in such a way finally opened my eyes and I began to understand that issues of women in the workplace were real. I was changed, and began in earnest to explore women’s issues.
There are those in this group working to bring attention to women’s rights in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Sudan, and many other nations. The work we all do advances the rights of and opportunities for women throughout the world. As I look around me, I’m struck by a lack of women in government. I live in a city in which being a woman becomes more and more politicized, as women disappear from advertisements and are forced to the back of buses, all in the name of modesty.
Back in the United States, the right of women to choose what to do with their bodies is an ongoing battle. It isn’t that the fight wasn’t there and started upon my emigration; I was simply paying more attention to issues I considered more pressing. But what can be more pressing than the personal fight to demand recognition of your worth?
When a friend sent me the URL for World Pulse’s Voices of the Future, I knew I’d found a perfect venue for this new fight. I believe strongly in the power of the internet, of the way it breaks down barriers. Becoming a part of a community explicitly created to promote the voices of women throughout the world was an easy choice for me. And so, here I am. Thanks for having me.