Missing the Moment

by Elise Ecoff @EliseEcoff      #BirthdayCelebration        

Photo by Rampal Singh on Unsplash

 

Quarantine. Lockdown. Social distancing. Whatever you choose to call the way in which we’ve lived the last few pandemic-filled months, it has clearly been a period in our existence like none other. Endless time spent at home has made us keenly aware of the days, hours, minutes, and moments in our lives as they slowly tick by. And the collective experience of women during this period has been particularly challenging.

We’ve experienced moments of frustration helping children with schoolwork; moments of fear watching the death toll rise; moments of anxiety wondering how we would juggle one more work task with our responsibilities at home; and moments of joy as we’ve rediscovered simple pleasures long cast aside for the fast pace of our modern lives. And for way too many, there have been moments of profound and unimaginable pain and loss.

While the medical community is still grappling with tests and vaccines for this insidious virus, the universe is pushing to get back to “normal”. We crave the stability of the world we knew and we need it fast. This sense of urgency feels a little like hope and a lot like desperation. We crave personal space, freedom, a mani-pedi, and an escape from the challenges that sometimes make us feel like we can’t breathe. And speed is necessary to end the suffering, and to protect our health care workers and others from the many physical and emotional hazards they face each day. But in our haste to return to our old lives I worry that we will miss the moment.

For all its darkness and gloom, the Coronavirus has shined a bright spotlight on women - our unique and irreplaceable contributions as caregivers, healthcare providers, teachers, working moms, and as leaders - political and otherwise.

The irony is not lost on me that one definition of the word corona is “a circle of light made by the apparent convergence of the streamers of the aurora borealis”. From destruction comes a beacon of sunlight.

But while a newfound appreciation for the challenges women face and how they rise above them is nice, it will not stick if it isn’t coupled with action. If we choose to rush back to our old lives without identifying ways to think and look at work differently in the future, then we miss the moment. We must use this crisis as a catalyst for real change.

There may never be a better opportunity to rethink traditional definitions of work, shatter gender stereotypes, and ensure the equitable treatment of women and other marginalized populations. Now is the time for us to take the lessons learned and ensure they become more than stories our grandchildren read about in history books someday.

So what can you do as an individual at this moment? How do you have the courage to take a stand? The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone.  But you do have to commit to ensuring equity for yourself and for those who will come next. Women and men need to galvanize our efforts to champion flexible work environments, ensure equal pay, and elevate the status of essential occupations predominantly held by women such as nurses and teachers.

If you are an introvert, reflect, and write. If you are comfortable in the spotlight, raise your voice. If you are a boss, be bold, and change the paradigm in your workplace. If you are a mom, aunt, teacher, mentor, or educational leader, empower the girls and young women in your care so they grow up in a world free from limits.

I cannot think of a better gift to honor the #WomenEd community’s 5th birthday than to slow down, capture the moment, and make a difference.

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