By Shannon Mason, Emerge California Class of 2013
I remember my father telling me “you need to find a husband who can support you” and my mother telling me “you are beautiful, you could be Miss America.” What I did not hear was anyone telling me I could do anything my brothers aspired to do, and perhaps I could do it better. When I went to junior college and met my guidance counselor he told me that I did not have the passion and drive necessary to become a professional. Well, he did not say it outright, but in short he did say that I did not have what it takes to be a doctor or a lawyer. At the time, those were the two professions I thought I would be best suited for, but he did not agree.
In hindsight, the input from my guidance counselor served me well because it fueled the fire for me to aspire to do more with my life. I was not about to let this man tell me that I was not capable of doing what I wanted to do with my life. However, the real turning point was when I became acquainted with a highly educated professional woman in my small town. She helped me to realize that I was capable of achieving my goals. I began to see that I could accomplish what the men in my community had accomplished, and over time I realized that I would someday be an example for young women.
Fortunately, I did not follow my father’s advice or the advice of my guidance counselor. Instead I became a woman who could support herself with a lot of passion and drive. The network of supportive women in my life lifted me and carried me through years of schooling and my development as a professional. My only regret is that I did not have the engagement of a strong female support system earlier.
Today I want to encourage all women, and especially my Emerge sisters to engage younger women in your communities and provide guidance and support to them. Perhaps we can show more young women that they too are capable of being strong leaders in the community.