The Free to Be movement has had a profound impact on the workforce.
Free to Be kids have changed everything. We’ve broken stereotypes and pursued new career paths. More important, we have raised our children in an environment that is far more diverse and tolerant than in the past.
So, what’s so different about Free to Be’ers?
There are many differences, but for the purpose of this blog, let me focus on the role of women. We are the generation that immediately followed the sexual revolution. We were of an impressionable age when most moms did not work and yet some women were burning their bras. The television was full of a confusing mixed bag of images that included Carol Brady, Shirley Partridge, Mary Richards, Edith Bunker, Anne Marie, Diana Prince (a.k.a Wonder Woman) and Jaime Sommers. These diverging images of women really got us thinking about what we wanted to do when we grew up and as we have grown up our identity has become increasingly broad.
I believe Free to Be kids are great in strategic human resources roles.
This is a gross over-simplification, but whether the potential barrier is sex, race, faith, disability or whatever other adversity an individual may face, our natural way of addressing the issue is to focus on capability.
The interesting part about writing a blog vs. a research or newspaper article is that there is more potential for telling a personal story. For some readers, this blog may take you down memory lane. Read on.
There’s more context for me about being a Free to Be kid.
My mother was a modern woman. After marrying her childhood sweetheart and living as a traditional 1960s housewife, in the 1970s she found herself divorced, saddled with a mortgage and three kids. She worked full-time, sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Like Shirley Partridge and Mary Richards, she learned to be independent. To the amazement of the neighborhood, she learned how to replace the storm windows on the 2nd floor by herself, change the oil in her car and unfreeze the pipes underneath the sink in the wintertime.
In the early 1970s, my mother was not necessarily in an enviable position. I once asked her why she was wasn’t like other moms. When she asked me what I meant by that I said, “Because you don’t wear your hair in a bun and bake cookies all the time.” With time, Free To Be helped me (and everyone else) to recognize that my mom was OK and, in fact, that she was perfectly normal.
In our day, Free to Be girls had new interests. For the first time, Six Million Dollar Man dolls were as popular with girls as boys. In my time, the Ideal Toy Company also released its first girl version of the Evel Knievel stunt bike. I loved it. She did great pop-o-wheelies! (Yes, that’s a picture above of my sisters and I at Christmas with my stunt bike.)
More so than in previous generations, Free to Be girls began pursuing more male-dominated professions.
I didn’t originally train to be an HR Professional. I studied communications at the University of Iowa and planned on working in media for the rest of my life. It was at a time when women were entering broadcast journalism in droves but most senior jobs were held by men. I think though at the time that I believed it was only a matter of time before that barrier would be broken.
Recently, Ben Eubanks, UpstartHR, wrote an excellent post, Men in HR, a National Geographic Exclusive. In it, he interviewed a wide variety of men and identified the challenges they face today. The funny part for me is that it wasn’t so long ago that HR at the senior levels (where it was no longer personnel) was almost entirely male dominated. Perhaps the Free to Be girls realized that HR was a good place to tap into our strengths and capabilities.
There may be some readers who will view this blog as feministic. I hope that isn’t the case. Sure, there are still many symbols out there that are very distinct for females and males, yet there are many more that have lost their gender identity. Overall, that’s great, because no matter what your sex, it is about your interests and your capabilities.
You like what you like. You follow your dreams. Let the banjo play. We are all free to be you and me.