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The slogan, “The Future is Female,” though trendy today, actually originated in 1975 and was brought into the spotlight when photographer Liza Cowan shared a photo she took of her then partner Alix Dobkin. The T-shirt, worn by Dobkin in the photo, was designed for Labyris Books, the first woman’s bookstore in New York City.
Fast forward to present day, and the words have taken on an entirely new life. The slogan (now appearing on everything from T-shirts and bags to coffee cups and magnets) has since become a statement symbol, worn by individuals identifying with just about every walk of life. So, what does it mean, anyway?
We’ve all heard about the record number of women running for office in 2018. According to The New Yorker, 472 women have entered the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, and 57 women have filed or are likely to file their candidacies for the Senate. That’s nearly twice as many female candidates as there were in 2012.
But surely, more women stepping up to the plate in the political sphere is not the only measure of a statement like “The Future is Female.” For me, when I hear or see the slogan, I think about a future where women are more inclined to take risks in their career choices — and in their life choices in general — and more willing to help each other rise to the top. For me, “The Future is Female” symbolizes women actively participating in their future. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Over the past year and a half, I have had the honor of meeting and interviewing women in the PHCP industry that have not only taken risks in their professional lives, but they also have paved the way for the next generation of women to reap the benefits of those risks. I personally have been inspired and challenged by the individuals I have gotten to know at various conferences and seminars, as well as through the interview process when writing about the featured woman in each installment of this newsletter. To each of you, thank you!
One of the first women I had the privilege of interviewing for Women in PHCP was Barb Higgens. Barb was getting ready to retire as CEO/executive director of PMI and agreed to sit down and talk to me about her journey over the past 20 years in the industry. I was so inspired by what she accomplished and how she did it, I asked her to be my mentor. She obliged. It’s probably been one of the best requests I have made to date. Barb recently said to me, “You have to keep this going. You have to step up to the plate to mentor someone now.”
I’m ready. I’m still in need of mentorship, myself, but I am also prepared to pay it forward. Because for me, an investment in someone else is an investment in my own future. Finding a way to help others succeed is a testament to my success. I truly believe that.
I asked Barb what she thought of when she heard the phrase, “The Future is Female.” She paused and then said, “Women’s roles and the expectations of others, and of ourselves, have changed dramatically during the breadth of my career, which began pre-PMI. I am fortunate to have a mentor who was one of the real pioneers in the 1960s. Women have stepped out of the shadows; we have become more comfortable in our skin.”
She went on to say, “Confidence is empowering, and it changes the focus from a spirit of competing with others (especially other women) to one of collaboration. It’s ironic that a lifetime of experiences boils down to some basics.”
The basics she offers to me and all of you include the following:
“You can change the world, one person at a time,” she added, “The future is bright; enjoy the ride! I’ll be rooting for you from retirement-land!”
As I’ve said many times before, it has really been an honor to meet all the wonderful, inspirational women in this industry. Each has, in their own unique way, impacted my growth over the past two years. And so, it is bittersweet to say this will be the last installment of Women in PHCP from my pen. When I was tasked with putting this newsletter together in January 2017, I did not expect it to be such an integral part of my professional growth. But it has, in so many ways, allowed me to learn and grow and aim higher. And so, thank you!
I’m passing the baton to Ashlei Williams, who will be taking over the role of editor for Plumbing Engineer, as well as be the new face of Women in PHCP. Ashlei is no stranger to the industry. When I came on board two years ago, I was stepping in as Ashlei was stepping out. Well, she’s back! I have absolute confidence that she won’t skip a beat and that all of you are in great hands!
As for me, I am heading on a new adventure. But I will take everything I have learned from all of you and this wonderful industry along for the ride. I will continue to cheer for every woman I come across. I will seek mentorship and hope to give it back as well. I will always believe in a future of inclusivity!
Speaking of the future, take a look at this month’s featured woman. Michelle Shadpour, EIT, LEED AP, was featured in the September issue of Plumbing Engineer as one of the “Top 10 in Their 20s.” She is only 24 and her story is unbelievable (and it’s only just begun!). Take a minute to read about this inspirational young woman who is part of our present—and future.
For now, take care of yourselves … and each other!