A Letter to my Daughters for International Day of Families: Lou Erdozain, Senior Director, ASDA and Healthy Minds Sponsor
Dear Chloe and India,
I have lately found myself looking at you both and realising that you’re no longer my little girls. You’re Gen Zers heading towards your teenage years and, whilst I’m sad at how quickly time is passing, I cannot wait to see the women you become.
If you were to ask me whether women can do anything, my answer would always be the same: “yes, 100% – provided you remember that success requires hard work and effort (in spite of what social media might lead you to believe!)”. You have so much opportunity and fewer gender limitations than when I grew up, which is a great thing. It’s important you know this, and make sure you walk the talk to continue to drive this change. Look at the amazing women around you each and every day, from all walks of life – and be inspired by them all.
If you were to ask me whether your path to opportunity will be truly equal, my answer would, sadly, be not yet – although we are making progress. It’s at this point that I want to pause and think about how to explain this to you. How do I balance the tightrope of instilling the right, instinctive awareness of the negative things that can happen, whilst building your confidence and curiosity in the power of being who you are and going after what you want?
The easiest way to do this is to reflect on my own experiences. I was raised with wonderful, strong male and female role models in every area of my life. I went to a nurturing all-girls school where I made best friends at four-years-old; friends I still cherish and rely on to this day. My teachers taught me the value of aiming high. I had aunts who set up their own businesses, and another who became a professor at uni. My Dad wanted me to pursue any career that made me happy and taught me the importance of putting family and health first, with a rewarding career alongside. My Mum – who was told that she couldn’t move to London or take up further education – inspired me to go after a career in sales. All of these experiences were in spite of the majority of media and social cues championing strong men in power and pretty women who looked after the home.
But my personal challenges with equality meant that I often felt like a little girl in a man’s world. I started my career in 1997 working in field sales and had an all-male customer base of wholesalers. Whilst I never felt uncomfortable or unequal within the organisation, I struggled to give a convincing sales pitch and make eye contact with my customers when their eyes were always well below eye level. It led to feelings of being judged by my femininity instead of being judged for the quality of my work. This experience contributed to my first – and thankfully last – episode of depression, seven months into my career.
24 years later, I reflect on an extremely painful time and instead view it as one of the best life experiences. I know that may sound strange to you both, but it has built my confidence and taught me the value of going after the things I want in life. Looking back, I think that confidence played a huge role – I just didn’t feel able to challenge the system. I instead chose to get my head down and prove that I was good enough. But really, I was more than good enough all along. Never forget that you are both always good enough.
Over time, and thanks to the strong network of support from both male and female role models at P&G, I learned that I could succeed. I’ve had a wonderful, varied career – and have never felt that I am judged for being female; I’m just Lou. I am proud of the times that I have chosen to challenge other people’s perceptions – be those related to my role or the wider business. I have championed the causes I care about, using my personal experiences as a way to drive forward important conversations on topics like mental health.
And when I leave the office, I continue to focus my attention on those who value me for who I am. I have found that this works best in life – and I know that your wonderful Dad has exactly the same view. So with that in mind, go out into the world and make it yours. Wherever life leads you, I hope – and believe – that you will grow into confident, authentic, unique individuals who thrive in life. And that is the world I’d like to see for you.