A older photograph of a woman

The Best Logistics Person in the World

Today is International Women’s Day.

The great women of our company went out to lunch to celebrate the day and celebrate each other– Jessie, Angelena, Jon, Behnaz, Sandy, and Sarah. We all celebrate them and their contribution to our company today.

I saw a picture posted online today. It was a picture of a statue – a young girl that had been placed in front the famous Wall Street Bull. The girl standing firmly and resolutely in front of raging bull that seems intent too trample her dreams and desires for success in the world of commerce. This was a profound public statement by a leading investment advisory firm that is advocating that more women be on the boards of major corporations.

Today I have been reflecting upon the role of women in business, and role of women in the workplace, and women in my life. The best place to start is one’s self and examines some of the biases that I carry within me. I am a 56-year old white Anglo- Saxon male. And despite my conviction that I have worked hard in my life, applied my skills and talent, and earned my place as a leader of a small technology company, I know that I got all the benefits of a North American society skewed very much in my favor.

I grew up in a wonderful home in a great community with four siblings. We weren’t rich but we certainly weren’t poor. Just by virtue of the fact that we lived in a stable society, in a city in Canada, where it was peaceful, and where we had access to great healthcare, meant we were rich. We were raised by a good father and by a loving mother who sacrificed her career aspirations to raise her children. We went to good schools and I got a university education from one of the top schools in the country. My first year’s tuition was $895. My fourth year’s tuition was $1,295. It was the greatest value I have ever gotten in my life.

Last November 8th I sat by my mother’s bedside stroking her arm and her forehead, praying as she lay in the very twilight of her life. On the TV that night I was watching the results of the US General Election, interested like everyone else to see if the first woman President of the United States would be elected, or whether a famous businessman, a celebrity and political populist, might win and disrupt the current political order.

As I looked down at her in the bed that night I reflected on her life, and wrote down many of the signposts of her life – the highlights and the low moments – trying as best I could to engage in the journey that she alone had taken.

The TV was silent as I watched the election results come in. She would have very much enjoyed watching it with me because we shared an interest in politics. She had been the daughter of a politician. She had been home when his party leader, the Father of Canadian Medicare, Tommy Douglas, had come to her house to meet with him on a few occasions.

Playing on the portable stereo in the background was a Glenn Miller CD I had brought with me. As I sat there we listened to ‘Chattanooga Choo-Choo’, ‘Kalamazoo’, ‘In the Mood’, and of course ‘Moonlight Serenade’.  And in the moonlight that dark night I wondered if I had turned out to be a man that had lived up to the dreams and wishes she had for me as a boy. I wondered if I had honored the sacrifice she had made for me in her life. As she lay there unconscious I was hoping that she was hearing Glenn Miller’s songs and taking one last big twirl on the dance floor in some big dance hall in the 1940’s – when the end of the war was near, and when so much of her life lay before of her.

Born in 1927 she grew up living through the Great Depression, the Second World War, got married and supported a husband through university, raised a family of five kids. Raised them in a household that was, in the early years, devoid of the modern day conveniences that we take so much for granted today – automatic dishwashers, automatic washers and dryers. Her first home in rural Saskatchewan had an outdoor toilet.

She learned to drive at age 45. A few years later when she had more time to herself with three of the five kids out of the house, she spent time running a program that helped young mothers in the church cope with the demands of raising their children and running a home. It was indeed cruel that she would have had to endure the loss of two of her children in adulthood, and the breakdown of a marriage.

She was born 11-years after women got the right to vote in Canada, played the role of a housewife, survived a divorce, enjoyed her 10 grandchildren and finally succumbed to the long good-bye of Alzheimer’s in her 88th year.

She was the best logistics person I ever met. Whether she was running a home, singing in the choir, running a program for young mothers or putting together another one of her spectacular Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, she was able to get it all done. She must have been exhausted and dispirited at times, but she seemed to always get it done.

She got her five kids to their destinations in life. She got her family organized so it could survive and thrive. She did it all with limited resources. She did what so many of the mothers of her generation did – put the needs of others before her needs. At the same time that I honor her, I know the world has changed and I think about the journey that my daughter will take.  I hope that she is able to find a place where her needs are balanced well against the needs of others – that she understands the value of serving others but that she never lets that be taken for granted, and that she stands up for herself – for her rights whenever they are challenged. That she is willing to ‘stand in front of that charging bull’ without regret or guilt knowing that those who came before her sacrificed a lot for her right to do so.

As my mother passed away early the next morning, amidst the sorrow I was also filled with the serenity of grace – gratitude that I had should have been so lucky to be one of her eggs.

She was the best logistics person on earth.

She clothed us. She fed us. She loved us. She was my mom.

Today is for you Mary Jean.