Today is International Day of the Girl. The UN created the day to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights”. This year’s theme is “Digital generation. Our generation”.
Per the United Nations, we have more than 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18 who will become the largest generation of leaders and the source of power, energy, and creativity. So many things shape our future when growing up, from the friends we make, our family roots and values, to the subjects we love at school. Today, as a mother, and as a woman, I want to briefly share my story and how much this day means to me.
I was born and raised in China, and fortunate enough to have a family who values education very much. My dad was an engineer, and a firm believer that the only career paths worth pursuing were engineering, medical practice, and law. “Everything else is disgrace to the family.” While I am grateful for all the encouragement and support, he provided me to complete my undergraduate degree in biochemistry, it was not until I came to the US that I realized what I was missing. I was never asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved drawing, painting, design work, and photography, but ended up doing experiments on bacteria day in and day out. I spent another six years trying to bridge the gap between my passion and the career path I was on: 3 years to complete my MBA, 3 more years to finally land a position in marketing where I can utilize my creativity to serve customers practicing dentistry. This is the start of my 8-year career with Envista.
We are now two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, an unfortunate time where we were forced to isolate, turn our homes into schools – a time where we saw our generation turn into a digital generation, and saw an increase in girls’ diverse digital realities. People are using technology in various ways to get educated, learn new skills, work, sustain their families, and women and girls cannot be left behind. I have two kids: a 17-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. I feel great responsibility to both of them, but especially to my daughter. I know there will be times when societal pressures may crush her spirit, and she might struggle to decide what she wants to do. She might find it difficult to fit in and be accepted, but I will promise to never judge and commit to protecting her opportunities to explore what her true passion is. When it comes to career paths, there are two big directions one can take, generalists or specialists. I would recommend two books: “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein and “Outlier: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell” (the famous 10,000-hour rule). I don’t view these two as contradictions, but different options for different talented people. The best thing we can give to our girls (and boys) is to let them explore, trial and error, form their own voice, and listen to them. Ensure they research, interview, and encourage them to find the truth about a career path instead of making decisions based on only perception or imagination. Fight alongside with them when what they want to become does not necessarily fit with what is expected of them.
Educating girls is crucial to empowering and preparing them for successful futures. It takes everyone’s efforts to protect every girl’s voice and ensure their equal opportunity in the future. The landscape is changing, and I am hopeful for the future of our little girls. I am proud that I work for Envista, a company that is not only committed to gender pay equality, but also develops, provides visibility, and supports more and more women to take leadership positions in the company.