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All I want for Christmas

By Tammy Marshall

For as long as I can remember, every year during the holiday season I hear people singing the novelty Christmas song, “All I want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” written by Donald Yetter Garden, a second grade teacher. The history of this song started in 1944 when Donald asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas that year. He noticed that all of the students had at least one front tooth missing, and they answered him with a lisp. In that moment he wrote the song, and the rest is history.

When I hear that song today, I asked myself, “What if second grade teachers, parents and other leaders around the world helped young children write a different type letter to Santa Claus?”

What if the wish list went more like this:

“Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is for women to stop asking for a seat at the table that I wish they would just take.”

While I don’t work at the North Pole next to a bunch of elves that help Santa fill Christmas wishes from Black Friday to Dec. 24th, I do work in a leadership role. Further, I see it my duty to build up and support the women who work in Long Term Care and Senior Living.

For far too long I’ve watched women work 24/7 to outwork their male counterpart, dress in grey and black suits trying to fit in and laugh at degrading jokes and metaphors that erode the feminine. I’ve never understood the person who brags about coming in early and being the last to leave. To me that’s not work ethic, that’s dumb. It’s says more about a person’s ability to prioritize and build a team than work ethic. Worse yet, I’ve seen women destroy other women to fit in and be accepted by their male counterparts. Even in the 21st century, women still hide their pregnancies for fear of being judged or fired, still accept less pay than their male peers. Surely, Santa wouldn’t stand for this if it were happening to the Mrs.

While I think we’ve made great strides in the movement to have more women in leadership roles, we have a long way to go toward equity. Integrating women into C-suite roles is one step; actually including them in the discussions is another.

As I write this article, my thoughts sound like this, “How softly do I have to word this so I don’t piss-off any men?” You know what I am talking about. Without a doubt there will be a reader or two that describes this article as another “female rant on equality.” Let’s only hope he doesn’t have daughters. It is sad that I have to consider myself one of the lucky ones—lucky that the president of Thrive Senior Living gets “Girl Power.” Just ask his wife Emily.

Recently, Argentum, a leading trade organization in Senior Living stated its plans to launch a Women’s Leadership initiative. The program aims to educate, support and mentor women leaders in our field. It takes the courage of women leaders like Maribeth Bersani, COO at Argentum, to not only talk about this issue but to actually do something that will prove to impact women for years to come.

Without knowing it, Maribeth acted as my personal Santa Claus this year. She will help women learn that it’s time to stop asking for a seat at the table and just take it.

Leaders don’t ask, they DO. Happy Holidays.

CREDIT—As chief experience officer at Thrive Senior Living, Tammy L. Marshall leads human resources and resident experience. Thrive is an innovative and high-growth operator of assisted living and memory care communities with a business model focused on improving resident quality of life through intelligent design, innovation and accountability.