Woman 2020: Jenny / by Jenn Heflin

WOMAN2020: Jenny

WOMAN2020: Jenny

It has been a crazy year for women. Historically, though, we know every year is crazy for women. If ever things are going to change, now seems like the moment. WOMAN 2020 is a snapshot of women during this time of upheaval. We are building careers, raising children, living our lives, and trying to impact the world in positive ways, and I believe all women have much to say. This is Jenny’s Q&A.

What is your first name, occupation, and role (or roles) you most identify with? 
Jenny, I'm technically a Sr. Web Analyst, but I'm in government as a Civil Servant.

What is the most positive thing about being a woman in 2019?
Women still have a long way to go, but the best part about being a woman now versus how it was even just two years ago, is that we are more aware, more organized, more vocal, and more supportive of each other than at any other time in history. Whereas two years ago there was a sense of equality, the awareness that it was more of a facade than a reality has been extremely empowering.

What is the hardest thing about being a woman in 2019?
As mentioned, we still have a long way to go. At this moment, women still have to make the hard decision of whether or not to work or to have a family. There is no support for women who want to do both. Consider this: Let's say a man and a woman have the same salary with the same benefits, including the same amount of paid time off (PTO), which is paid out at the end of their tenure in Company ABC. Company ABC may offer family leave for fathers or mothers who want to bond with their newborns. For new fathers, they can come back to work and not have to use any additional PTO if they don't want to. For new mothers, they physically need to be at home to recuperate and have no choice but to take PTO. After family bonding time is exhausted, mothers at my office need to exhaust all of their accrued PTO, after which, they can then apply for disability to get partial pay. When the man leaves for a new job, he gets paid out for the PTO he did not have to exhaust. If the woman leaves for a new job, she might not have ANY PTO accrued remaining. So few people consider this. The disparity is ingrained in our society, and the record number of women in congress can't make a dent fast enough to change the laws that govern us for us to actually be treated fairly.

When did you first notice that society treated men and women (or boys and girls) differently?
By the time I was four, family members told me that I couldn't do certain things because I was a girl, but my male cousins could. I protested, loudly, repeatedly. I continue to protest this to strangers because my family members know better by now.

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How do you maintain your resiliency in these times? 
I try to stay informed, and I surround myself with strong, intelligent, supportive friends.

Why do you think past movements haven't moved the needle for women? Or have they? Past movements have definitely moved us forward, but we have to keep forging.

Do you think the current movement will be the one to change things for future generations? Why?
I would like to think that any movement or strides we make for power will help future generations, even if only incrementally.

What needs to happen for us to move forward?
We need a government that prioritizes the basic needs of the people, such as healthcare and education. We need to pay our teachers more money so that our kids understand science, math, art, music, and language. We cannot expect families to be happy if parents need to choose between healthcare and food. We also need to encourage diversification in our neighborhoods and communities. The more we know about each other, the better informed we are about how we are more similar than different.

What can women do to make it better for other women? 
We need to understand that life is not a competition. When women support women, we all benefit. When women teach their sons to respect women, we all win.

What can men do to make it better for women? 
We need men to be allies, without ego and without pretense. When men teach their sons to respect women, we all win.

What are some of the influences (people, art, books, songs, movies) you loved growing up that made you realize your power?
My mother is a power. My grandmother was a matriarch. My sister is a power. There is no reason why I shouldn't be either.

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What am I missing -- what should I be asking?
I believe that being a woman of color has played a huge role in who I am. Growing up in an immigrant household has me seeing the world differently as well.

Visit the WOMAN 2020 webpage to tell your story and to stay in touch about the exhibition opening in Spring of 2020.