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Who Benefits from Your Good Works?
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March 17, 2013 5:30 p.m.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas.
She was always doing good works and acts of charity<>
(Acts 9:36)<>
March is Women’s History Month. It’s 2013 and I am both confused about the debates over protecting women from violence or protecting women’s reproductive rights, while I celebrate Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the historical number of women elected to office or running major corporations. As a working mom, I know that we are making progress and preparing a better way for the next generation of women leaders.<>
In my own industry, I see phenomenal changes taking shape. In 2011, I participated in the inaugural Women in Manufacturing conference. It was rewarding to network with high-powered women who shared my passion and experiences. I left the 2012 conference feeling less enthusiastic. It appeared to me that affluent women had decided to become champions of manufacturing by using their position to influence policy. Their efforts are sincerely needed, however, I question if a person who has never worked in the environment understands the real world needs. I was actually turned off when I heard references to the “pink ghetto,” a take on a term assigned to jobs or functions typically filled by women. In their minds, it is not enough that women are ascending to C-level appointments in functional areas like human resources, finance, and marketing—that more women are needed in research and development, engineering, technology. The premise is true, but my lived experience is that the road to CEO is through the financial/commercial side of the business, not the operational side.<>
I was frustrated because the affluent women most likely to have a voice in the political world are least likely to know what really happens in the lower levels of manufacturing. One of my favorite songs has these lyrics: You don’t know my story. You don’t know the things that I’ve been through.These women do not know my story of a college educated, front line supervisor/manager in manufacturing, and what it is like to work in a wet, sub-50 degree turkey processing plant, taking both vitamin B (to ward off pain in my hand from holding a knife for hours at a time) and vitamin C (to prevent colds) tablets daily or to work twelve hour shifts or to be pregnant and trying to navigate across a production floor covered with hydraulic fluid. These are the jobs you take throughout your career to prove yourself, to get the real experience to qualify you for those promotional opportunities en route to the C-suite or corporate board appointments.<>
I thought about this after last week’s controversy surrounding Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and the flack she’s catching for her presumed inability to understand the challenges of women less affluent than herself in attaining professional achievement and financial prosperity. I applaud her attempts, but I question if she understands that it takes more than Lean In Circles for women to achieve their professional goals. To learn more about Sandberg’s movement, visit her Lean In community at http://leanin.org/<>
My self-reflection is asking what I am doing in preparing a better way for future leaders in manufacturing and technology. I can turn my frustration into a voice in the community I work and serve. I can use my participation in industry associations to discuss real world needs. I can mentor young women, advising them of career possibilities and sharing my experiences of navigating in and out of functional assignments. I can share with them the benefits of the work I have been graced to accomplish. <>
Sidenote explanation of the scripture reference: I remembered that my club alias, back in college, was Tabitha. Little did I know then that the name represented a woman of the bible or that the name is synonymous with a woman who does good works (Acts 9:36).

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