Earlier this week, I sent a tweet asking "To my working women friends: If you could give your younger working self any advice, what would you say?" in search of inspiration before afternoon meetings (and because, let's be honest, most of our Twitter feeds can use a distraction from the never-ending saga of the 2020 presidential election.)
An hour later, I refreshed my feed and was blown away: the tweet had hundreds of comments and likes. The next morning, the number was well into the thousands, and it's still climbing since.
A multitude of women -- the vast majority of whom I've never met -- had retweeted, tagged their friends to join the conversation and offered up sheer brilliance.
Here are a few replies that stood out to me:
Don't worry so damn much-- Stephanie Armour (@StephArmour1) February 19, 2020
-- Rebecca HughesParker (@RHughesParker) February 19, 2020
If you have children early, and are the major earner, try not to succumb to motherhood guilt -- it's ok not to fill the role of perfect mother -- something we don't expect dads who are major earners to fill. If you love your kids and do your best, they will be fine!
There will be about a two minute gap between when you're being told you're too young for the job and when you're told you're too old for the job. Don't listen to any of it. Age is unwinnable for women.-- Megan K. Stack (@Megankstack) February 19, 2020
Prioritize therapy earlier, invest in great childcare (that's great mom care too), order groceries online, be unapologetic about what you want, (keep) being nice (you don't need to be a mean girl to win), find allies at work and in community, max out your 401k, don't eat at desk.-- Paige Hewlett (@paigehewlett) February 18, 2020
The thread goes on and on, and every bit of it is awe-inspiring.
The outpouring of engagement with this simple question only confirmed something I know in my core to be true: Women want to talk seriously about work -- and yes, that often includes talking seriously about how work impacts their family life, and vice versa. It's all part of the same puzzle. It also confirms that women need a place to talk about work and motherhood, beyond a Twitter thread. A place to listen, to react, to be inspired and reassured.
When I followed the thread, I saw themes emerge. There are countless posts advocating for women to negotiate their salaries and to not say yes to the first offer. There are also dozens of messages urging women to apply for jobs even if unsure of their qualifications (reminding me of the oft-quoted statistic that men apply for a job when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent). Then there was note after note reassuring women that they can and will find a way to "make it all work" between their careers and future families.
My very favorite tweet reads, "Girl, have your babies." I agree. (Oh, the hours I spent pondering this in my 20s.)
Girl, have your babies-- Rachel Carlson (@RachelRCarlson) February 18, 2020
Working women have so many of the same questions and fears and hopes -- no matter how young or old, where we are in our career or the country, or the number of babies we've had or hope to have. The simple truth is that over the course of our lifetimes, we live many shared experiences at work. And we walk away with many of the same lessons.
I turned 40 this month. In the past decade, I've gotten married, welcomed four little girls, and pivoted away from a decade-long career as an attorney to start a company that now employs 75 people across 10 states. And yet I still take away so much from the wisdom and advice generously offered on this simple Twitter thread.
So, I have to wonder: What if all of us told our stories more often? What if working women shared the lessons of our work and our choices with one another, our colleagues, our friends, our families? What if our voices reached women we've never met before who needed our support? What if we used the power of our experience to do more than just survive the workplace, but instead to transform it?
I think we can do this. And I think that in doing so, we can change the world.