Editor’s note: International Women’s Day (IWD2024) theme for 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. We asked our leaders to present their personal views and share stories of how their experiences support that theme.

[An open letter to Taylor Swift’s mom.]

Dear Andrea – and I feel like I can call you Andrea because that’s the kind of down-to-earth woman you are – am I right?

So, Andrea, let me get right to the heart of why I’m writing to you today. THANK YOU for raising the kind of daughter I would be proud to work beside. No – scratch that. I would enjoy working with Taylor. And I feel we would have that kind of collegial, collaborative, mutually supportive work environment. Maybe I’m wrong – but all public evidence supports my view.

Sure – she’s beautiful and talented and that may open doors for her. But it’s how she’s pursued those doors that’s so admirable. And what she did with those open doors and windows – that must make you so proud!

It’s clear you raised a strong, capable, female with leadership qualities we can all get behind: management savvy, integrity, empathy, loyalty, skill, and – yes – vulnerability.  You know why people love her and follow her? It’s because she’s real. She’s a sign of our success in this worn-out gender we call “female.” We can be authentically ourselves and be respected.

We don’t have to act like the men in the room to fit in. In fact, we don’t have to fit in at all.

We can have emotions.  We can be shocked, we can cry, we can be angry, we can say what we mean. Even when it’s not popular.

We can be true friends with other women – supporting them and helping them straighten their own crowns.

We can work hard and still have a personal life.

We can dress girlie or sexy or comfortable or like a total boss – and it’s all acceptable.

We can be brave.

I think of 11 year-old Taylor walking door-to-door in Nashville handing out a demo CD and introducing herself and I think “EEK!! I would never have been able to do that!” But, maybe in another generation, we will see all girls have just as much confidence. Because Taylor is setting a new example for us.

Look – I’m not saying my mom wasn’t as good as you! She was amazing and left me with wonderful skills. What did she do? She was a first generation American who sewed in a factory when she worked outside our home, cooked wonderful German and Slovak food, pronounced her V’s like W’s (think wel-wet for velvet), had an eighth-grade education, raised her 4 siblings when her mom died young, married my dad (a steel laborer), and always made sure we had what we needed. She made amazing Kipfels, Apple Strudel, Chicken Paprikash, Goulash, nut rolls, and more. She once sewed matching dresses for her and me – I was so proud! And she made it possible for me – the youngest of five – to pursue whatever it was I wanted to pursue. (I just didn’t know what that was – and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.)

So, I didn’t have a roadmap or example for what it was supposed to mean to be a business leader. But I did have honesty, vulnerability, curiosity, and a desire to learn and create.

But I’m no role model. Taylor is. Sure, she has beauty and fame and money. But mostly what she has is the ability to change the world one young girl at a time.

And you know what I just thought about!? We ALL have that gift. I’m going to unwrap my ability right now and do just that.

Thanks for listening.