“Stay between the lines,” the teacher says as the children concentrate on completing the task correctly and are careful not to let the crayon go too far.
At first, the children have a difficult time keeping the crayons on the page – let alone within the lines. They learn as they grow and are soon able to do what is expected and they color within the lines. They color the sky blue and the grass green.
Being inquisitive by nature, the children begin to ask questions, “Why does the sky have to be blue?” “Why can’t I stay up later?” “Who said milk is good for me anyway?”
They continue to grow and reach a point where coloring within the lines begin to feel restrictive. Some let the crayon slip and others color the sky purple and the grass red. They can do more than they were led to believe and find that going “outside the lines” can be exhilarating. They realize the only limits they face are those they place on themselves.
What a discovery!
Not before long though, they find that this is not necessarily the case. Rooted deep in our society, roles are defined and societal expectations are enforced. They find that socio-cultural “lines” can be much less tolerant of females than of males. Yet, there are women who overcome the system are are successful in erasing the “lines,” as evidenced by women in medical professions, top corporate positions, and in the military.
The paragraphs above are the introduction to a paper I wrote, “Socio-Cultural Analysis of Combat Exclusion,” for a Masters class. It was written in 1993 when I teaching ROTC at University of Pennsylvania – and a lot less fun at parties.
Nonetheless, it was on my mind so I pulled it out, dusted it off, laughed at the typewriter type, and began to wonder:
“Women of HR, what lines do we need to erase today?”
So, I asked them.
What you’ll read over the rest of this week are a number of different perspectives. We’re going for awareness and strength. Read along and let us know what you think.
Photo credit iStock Photo