I became acquainted with Jenny Garrett through a LinkedIn discussion group debating the topic of female breadwinners: “Female breadwinners: do you love it, like it or resent it?” The question sparked hundreds of responses, including Garrett’s (she is an expert in women’s leadership). Through a few direct messages I shared my review of Liza Mundy’s book “The Richer Sex” and not long after, “Rocking Your Role” whizzed across the ocean from the U.K. to Chicago.
The topic of Garrett’s book is female breadwinners or as she calls them: main earners (MEs). She examines various parts of being a ME, including examples from her own life and the lives of other women. She says: “This book is created as a guide for you in your life as ME. It is carefully designed to supportively challenge you through the internal and external issues and opportunities you face, in order to make the most of your role and make your corner of the world work for you” (Garret, 2012, p. 17).
Here are my thoughts on the first chapter:
The small percentage of women main earners MEs must begin to see themselves as paving a permanent path. Garrett notes that many MEs see themselves in temporary situations when in reality, temporary may be five or ten years.
In part, having more freedom overall means taking more responsibility for your role in that freedom. Other parties (a.k.a. men) cannot abdicate responsibility, but women need to take ownership over their role as ME in order to feel empowered in an ME status. Garrett wants to know: how do you identify with your main earner status?
You can figure this out through the exercises and stories in her book. She gives you the tools to reflect on and understand your role as an ME.
I would like to complicate this argument though, and say that in the current landscape for career women: this is what “having it all” looks in 2013. Getting comfortable with a ME role is as important as ever to pushing the women’s movement forward.
It’s an exciting time to be a woman, but it’s also tough because we’re not there yet. In the U.S. women are still not considered equal. The Equal Rights Amendment was never passed and the House of Representatives shot down the Violence Against Women Act—again. This is yet another form of backlash against women, just like Susan Faludi described in her book: “Backlash: the undeclared war against American women” that was published in 1991.
Faludi notes: “A backlash against women’s rights succeeds to the degree that it appears not to be political, that it appears not to be a struggle at all. It is most powerful when it goes private, when it lodges inside a woman’s mind and turns her vision inward, until she imagines the pressure is all in her head, until she begins to enforce the backlash, too—on herself” (Faludi, 1991, p. xxii).
Thus, it is evermore important for women to invest and empower themselves in order to combat the backlash. The more comfortable you are in your role, the easier it will be to take on the world, no matter the context.