Devora Mason is the Business Development and Operations Manager of VoiceItt, an Israel-based biomedical company specializing in speech recognition technology for the speech-impaired population. Due to her own personal and professional struggles, Mason volunteers as a mentor and coach for women in executive positions, focusing on personal and professional growth as well as developing leadership skills. Prior to working for VoiceItt, she was the Operations Manager of an Israeli subsidiary to a publicly traded American company, Innodata Israel Inc., helping develop the current structure and pricing model of outsourcing, focusing on Israel as a key player. Her ten-plus years of experience in the high-tech market in Israel have given her an edge within the Israeli and American markets as they relate to marketing, business development, niche markets, and operations. Mason is a full-time, single mother of five and an advocate for single mothers in Israel. She addresses many of the issues facing women and society in Israel in her popular blog on the Times of Israel, which covers these as well as many other topics of interest to her readers. She was born, and spent most of her life, in Canada, moving to Israel in 2006.
Recently at the IWF World Cornerstone Conference in Tel Aviv, representing my company Voiceitt, I had the pleasure and honor to participate on an amazing panel of women discussing disability tech and how it is changing the lives of people all around us one voice at a time, one step at a time. As a woman, it’s these kinds of experiences that make you feel like you can be whatever you want in life… you are reminded of your own ambition and curiosity… of the young girl that lives inside you who still believes you are powerful and without limit.
I am a single, full-time mother with five kids. My daily reality is that I live without a financial cushion, an emotional cushion or partner in life to share the load. I understand full well that sometimes you can only go as far as life will allow you in any given moment. Part of success is knowing the timing of your limitations, and when that time comes, I bow my head and admit my limit has been met. And, I also know there are moments where I have to push aside any fear or perceived limitation and just try. Part of success is knowing when to be bold as well.
When I was married and had my first child, the expectations and rules of my life changed. The moments of life where we feel judged by others and harshly judge ourselves were on the uptick. Am I good enough? Am I a good mother? Do I work too much? Am I out of the office too much? How can I ensure that my kid is successful, well balanced, humane and protected? Each decision I made felt like it was a reflection of my own moral compass. Everything had a stigma or a standard that was associated with the other: breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, mothering or smothering, co-sleeping or cribs, vaccinating or childhood illnesses, working or staying at home, pink dresses for girls and blue jeans for boys.
As a young mother I also attended university, struggling to make it on time, to attend the daytime classes and forgoing any chance of success at attending the evening ones. I was exhausted at night and stressed out during the day. My mind was racing with the shocking realization that my ideals as a young girl, be it from my utopian upbringing, were a lie. Maybe I can’t have it all… because I’m a woman. After all, we all start out on the playground ambitious to win the race.
We have seen it time and time again. We have watched the smart, driven and possibly lucky members of our gender flying high on the trapeze-of-success, far above the crowds. We all know what that looks like and some of us know what it feels like to savor those sweet moments. Is it not safe to assume that at some point during this excitement of soaring on high, we will inevitably and most dramatically have life show up and knock the wind right out of us? There will always be competing priorities and limitations. There will always be moments when we win and moments where we lose. It is in these moments that I ask myself: how do we stay humble, how do we stay connected and how can we help each other up? I heard it so brilliantly stated that as leaders we must learn to “fail forward.”
What I believe is simple: as a woman, it’s not about making it, it’s about keeping it.
So many women who have the skills and tools to make it are missing the critical tools that allow them to keep it…or at least keep it together when life is coming at you from every direction. The path to success has been forged by many women leaders before us, and we use their drive, impulsiveness, devotion and even the expected sacrifice of family as the sure fire examples of what it takes to succeed. We need to capture and highlight more of the trapeze stories of our great women leaders. Their success inspires us and mentors us and, most importantly, it provides desperately needed role models for what is possible.
Being a woman has gotten me further than I could have ever imagined. Someone forgot to mention that instead of fighting our feminine side, we should embrace it. By doing that, we’ll build our own flying trapeze and invite the world to soar freely with us. Let’s make sure to embrace our femininity, too often equated with sexuality and vulnerability, instead of suppressing and rejecting it. As women, our feminine side is a powerful one with which we can move mountains and demand the attention we deserve. We can succeed. We can fail. We can grow. We can move forward. We can soar.
As a woman, I can make a difference in how others are treated. I can speak up for quieter representatives in a room who are too shy or conditioned to do it for themselves. It is because I’m a woman that I can be nurturing without being thought of as weak or soft. If someone acts inappropriately, I can be the better person. I can be calculated and reflective and not feel the need to be impulsive. As a woman, I can fight for other women. I can be assertive. I can be a mother without that being what defines my career, but ultimately what defines my work hours and my unwavering commitment.
In retrospect, I wasn’t lied to about whether or not I can or can’t have it all. Truth is, I just never knew how to ask the right questions to get where I wanted to be.
Because I’m a woman, I will learn and know better for next time.
Because I’m a woman, I will learn how to make it and know how to keep it.
Because I’m a woman.