The Syfy channel had an Indiana Jones Marathon on last weekend. I love those movies. Exotic locales. Evil villains. Rousing soundtrack. Sexy Harrison Ford.
My hands down favorite is the last one in the trilogy – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Between the high action chases on sea, desert or rail, there are serious themes of sons and fathers; legacies and protection; faith and values. The apex is when Jones, watching as his father lies bleeding to death, is posed a question we all have to face.
“It is time to ask yourself. What do you believe?”
Indy, is going through what most of us do – the need to differentiate ourselves from our parents while accepting them as flawed individuals, loving them despite it. We do it as recalcitrant toddlers, practice it as surly teenagers, stretch it by leaving home, then fully realize it with our own businesses, families, burdens and successes.
I think this is especially true for women, who hold themselves to a standard of never saying no; to being desirable wives and patient mothers; successful leaders and superb teachers; accomplished yet tired. Historically defined by their relationship to someone else from taking another’s last name as wife; carrying another being to term in our bodies; over represented in serving bosses, passengers and shoppers – carving out a comfortable place of authority that is all our own is elusive and delicate work.
Which brings us to Ivanka.
Vogue magazine heralds her as The CEO of Her Household. Politico thinks that she is our next climate czar, reining in her father and focusing him on liberal causes. While The Washington Post wonders if she is a passionate political advocate or just building her brand. And yet we have photos where she’s “Fashion Girl” and the label model precedes that of businesswoman. Is this really our ideal of powerful women in 2016?
Frankly I find her just as confusing as her father. What does she really stand for? Whom does she stand with? When her $10,000 bracelet was promoted from The 60 Minutes segment, the apology didn’t come from her. When Andrew Pudzer was nominated as Secretary of Labor, Ivanka didn’t pipe up to reiterate her support for affordable child care and working women.
She’s most probably the next First Lady of the United States. But what message of female leadership and empowerment will she be sending to young women? How does she establish her own voice in our national awareness – one that can be an inspiration for the millions of women not born rich or staggeringly attractive – while still supporting her dad? And how does she separate from her dad while being a good daughter and powerhouse corporate executive?
If she were asking me (and no, she’s not) here is what I would advise:
- No one can have it all. Pick what you want to be. High flying corporate executive? You got that. First Lady? You can learn that. But you can’t be both without everything you do in one role being compared to the other and found wanting.
- Honeymoons end. They love you now, and you’ve done a great job in letting them see the best of you. But millions of women are watching – and that’s a lot of pressure. Like any female leader, you have a responsibility to be if not a spokesperson, then at least a role model, for their interests and rights.
- Own it. Get out ahead of the story by picking what you want to accomplish as a female leader – and for god’s sake, make it about more than jewelry and dresses. Don’t arrange meetings with Al Gore if Dad is just going to appoint climate change deniers. It seems that he was just humoring you and weakens your own authority. Go for what you can own, herald it, push it, lean into it, and make it yours.
- Be gracious but be vocal. Your words and actions have an amplifying affect, but so do your silences. You can’t contradict your father – who’s also your boss – in public. But your authenticity will be questioned if the totality of your public leadership profile is to fall in line without any voice of your own. Ronald Regan’s children can give you some advice here.
- Time to ask yourself: what do you believe? You’ll have a legacy. Wouldn’t you prefer to write it than have it written for you? What will you lend your voice to? What will you put your stamp on? How will you make this country a better place?
This is an important time for women. We have watched the first female candidate for President both win the popular vote and lose the election. We have an upswing in reported sexual harassment claims at work and a generation of young women looking for inspiration and leadership.
It could be you, Ivanka. As a powerful, smart, ambitious woman it’s your turn as much as your father’s. I would take my inspiration from Indy – survey the choices. Consult as needed. And then, choose wisely.