Cristina Garcia is a Democrat serving in the California state Assembly. The views expressed are her own. There’s a great episode of Parks and Recreation where Leslie Knope and her best friend, Ann Perkins, infiltrate the “boys’ club” of city planners because that’s where the actual decisions are made — and where favors that can help them build their dream park will get handed out. Leslie and Ann struggle with the same barriers to entry that many women in the workplace face on a daily basis. Many important deals and relationships are developed within the "boys’ club." It’s a common workplace occurrence that many men feel far more comfortable blurring the lines of professionalism with other men than they do with women. Those stronger relationships yield significant benefits for the men involved, including more opportunities for mentorship, raises, and promotions. In politics, the "boys' club" makes it easier for men to build coalitions and strike compromises on legislation to get work done and bolster individual political status. The benefits of the "boys’ club" have not gone unnoticed. Women have been trying to break in since we entered the workforce, but our efforts have been largely futile. I’m here to say that it’s time to start a new club: the "girls’ club." The "girls’ club" should be approaching integrating more women into the workforce, the "girls’ club" needs to acknowledge the strengths and barriers women have to success.
We’ve got to be all for one and one for all — no exceptions.
There is a myth that women don't help one another, but we do. The problem is that many of us find ourselves the only woman at the table — there is no other woman to have our back. This creates an unrealistic expectation of unconditional support. We can support one another without always having to be in sync. Together, we need to redefine the path to success, not by how men have historically defined it for us, but by the standards and benchmarks that we set for ourselves. But we cannot make this change as individuals. We need to stop seeing fellow women as competition and start seeing them as resources instead. Empowerment is not a zero sum gain. The more we lift one another up, and respect and fight for freedom of choice, the more we will all benefit. We need to encourage and empower women to take risks, to have the courage go after things we were told were beyond our reach; we need to respect one another's decisions, even if they differ from our own.
If a woman chooses to wear a hijab or other religious garb, that is her choice. It does not diminish her devotion to feminine empowerment or her commitment to the value of freedom. If a woman chooses to pursue her career instead of raising children, or forgoes opportunities in order to spend time with her kids, that’s her right. And, of course, if a woman makes the personal choice to end a pregnancy, that is her right. It is essential that we both respect and protect her for that. This respect is not limited by race or religion or income. We all have a right to reproductive choice. And, as women, we are on the front lines of protecting that right. We’ve got to be all for one and one for all — no exceptions. That means we have to understand that our perspectives are different, even though we are all women. We need to do a better job of understanding the plight of all our sisters — Black, White, Latina, and Asian. When we understand and accept one another, we can work together to make a system that works for us.
When we understand and accept one another, we can work together to make a system that works for us.
Once again, Parks and Recreation illustrates what this might look like. A few days before Valentine’s Day, Leslie Knope organizes a gathering of women to celebrate it and calls it “Galentine’s Day.” I’ll let her explain: “Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It's like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas." This year, I hope you’ll celebrate your own Galentine’s Day and use that time together to brainstorm how you can support one another over the next year in your unique personal and professional endeavors. I am more confident than ever that women are the solution. Let’s make it happen.