Just last week the nation sat on the edge of its seat as the U.S. Supreme Court denied appeals to uphold bans on same-sex marriage across Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Utah. At the time of this writing, we're now up to 29 states (plus D.C) with marriage equality (covering almost 60 percent of the U.S. population), but even still, millions of LGBT people remain without access to full equality. In the remaining states we're still fighting for our rights and eagerly waiting on more court decisions in our favor. And though the issue of same-sex marriage is a hot topic in today's society, this is only one piece of the complicated equality puzzle.
It's a widely discussed fact that, on average, women in America are still being paid less than men for the same work -- yet transgender employees have a much higher chance of being unemployed or underemployed, leading to further complications in the workplace. Marriage, adoption, buying a home, workplace protections -- all of these are top of mind for us. Women as a whole, and more specifically women who, like me, identify as members of the LGBT community, are up against even more than one could ever imagine. Think of it this way: Even as more and more states allow same-sex couples to legally marry, a majority of states still lack explicit legal protections for LGBT people against discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.
Working Mother of the Year
Despite all the challenges, Working Mother has named me "Working Mother of the Year." In fact, this is the first time a transgender woman has been chosen to receive the magazine's prestigious award. Remarkable, isn't it?
Actually, it's not. I'm just like any other mom, be she single, partnered or married: I'm planning meals, balancing budgets, figuring out how to encourage my child to enjoy reading, and juggling my schedule to accommodate taking my daughter to the doctor when she's sick. While most of the U.S. puts a label on who I am, both at home and in the workplace, to myself I'm just a working mother.
What is remarkable is the staggering inequality we working mothers face. The reality of the workplace for women in 2014 is stark; I know because I've seen both sides. I started my career as a male, and as long as I presented as such, I found that my views and opinions were widely respected. But since transitioning to my true, authentic self, I've come to recognize the gender-stereotypical male dominance in meetings and work in general, something I never thought about until I was on the receiving end of it. In the modern workplace it's the male alpha dog vs. the bossy female (who, by the way, is shouting beneath the glass ceiling to have her voice heard and receive equal pay).
Finding Support Through Mentorship and Role Models
The transition to working mother has been a difficult one too, but seeking a mentor helped me and other colleagues make the shift from woman to married woman to working mother. Whether finding another working mother or other females in your company or industry whom you can connect with, seeing what others have achieved can be a key motivating force to help you get through tough times; it certainly has been for me. It's also been rewarding to serve as a mentor to others; for me, learning has worked both ways.
As companies highlight women -- and specifically working mothers -- in successful positions, more and more women will become empowered to see that they have a voice and an ability to speak out. We must encourage that dynamic. It's about ensuring that everyone's opinions are considered. Women need to have a seat at the table; it's time our voices were heard.
Tackling a Broader Issue
Seeing both sides has helped me realize that the "old boys' network" must be disassembled. While the LGBT community continues to fight for marriage and workplace equality across all 50 states, the nation's unconscious bias around both women and the LGBT community needs to be exposed.
Today it's still extremely hard for women to ascend the corporate ladder to power. But when they do succeed in breaking through that unconscious bias, women in leadership roles can use their positions to create an educational forum. As more and more women step up, they will create a snowball effect for success and equality.
Employers across the United States must adopt policies and practices that protect the LGBT community and their families. For example, my employer, CA Technologies, has a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. It's not just the right thing to do; it needs to be made law across every state.
We've come a long way on the equality journey, but we still have a long way to go with regard to women in the workplace and LGBT diversity. This fight isn't just about LGBT rights; it's about our rights, as women, to a fair and equal chance at leadership in the workplace -- working mother or not.
Meghan Stabler is a business executive, a transsexual woman, a national LGBT speaker and advocate, an advisor at CA Technologies (a multibillion-dollar IT management software and solutions company), and Working Mother's "Working Mother of the Year."