The Art of Being Stubbish

It started 6 years ago when I read an article in the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”. Read it. Every single word. It’s brilliant. That summer afternoon, after reading that article, I knew I wasn’t going to do well trying to squeeze my square peg feminist values in the round hole of a workplace that was well rooted in outdated patriarchal practices. You get it.

I grew up in the 1980’s, watching women enter the workplace in record numbers. I went to high school knowing full well I would attend college, most likely graduate school and of course I would have a career. The women before us had blazed the path and now we got to have it all. Except those hard-earned values didn’t seem to have a home in today’s workplace. I feel like we got left holding the bag. Anne-Marie cites another article, written by Kerry Rubin and Lia Macko, the authors of Midlife Crisis at 30, “What we discovered in our research is that while the empowerment part of the equation has been loudly celebrated, there has been very little honest discussion among women of our age about the real barriers and flaws that still exist in the system despite the opportunities we inherited”.


I know we have come farther than ever before, with more companies recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion, policies that protect and support women in specific circumstances, but we are miles from where we need to be. We are miles from the dramatic shift in a culture that intentionally removes the barriers and flaws that are so very present.

Okay. So now what? Well. I started a company. Because I am selfish.

I really do want to have it all. I want a deeply challenging career where I don’t have to hide the fact that, yes, I am a woman (shhhh… I also have kids). I want to drop those kids off at school with a lunch and clean clothes at least 80% of the time. I want to get to the gym 4 days a week. I want to nurture an intimate relationship with my partner with the time and focus that it deserves. And if I am pushing my luck, I want to see my girlfriends at least twice a month. See? Selfish.

I am selfish. I want it all. And I will not change. So I am actually selfish AND stubborn. Stubbish? Yes. Stubbish.

So, if I’m not changing, that means all y’all (pointing to the top floor of really tall office buildings with lots of old white men) need to change. It’s a simple plan really. We, women, work hard to push and pull (depending on where you are standing) to get a seat at the big tables. Decision makers set the tone, enforce a culture that either supports or ignores feminist values. Women have proven over and over that having equal representation at the top will INCREASE the corporate financial bottom line. Female perspectives and skill sets add value. Real value.  

So, I took my stubbish attitude and launched the Open Delta Group. I created a curriculum that matches women in pairs or triads in professional mentoring relationships. If top-level staff are taught how to support, cheer, advocate, and advise women along the way, more will stay. More women will be in the right rooms. More will rise to the top. And slowly the barriers and default patriarchal culture will fall away.

This formal mentoring program is straightforward – an obvious response to an obvious problem. Women need to be represented at the decision-making levels. We need to normalize the female perspective and experience.  We need more and different role models. Help men become better allies. Look up, look down, look next to you. How can you lift up, normalize or be more vocal for your empowerment and the empowerment of those women around you?

Get stubbish ladies. Get really, really stubbish.

Content provided by Women Belong member Mary Ellen Ball