Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Open Letter to Provo

 photo 285A87F9-DBEF-40FA-B312-468E305FC53D_zpsebydjamj.jpg 
My view as I walk into work each week.

Dear Provo,

I'm sitting down to write this letter during quiet time. I just hoisted the baby in her crib for a nap and my other two daughters are finding delight in the kids YouTube Channel (don't judge me Provo). This is my husband's day to work (we take turns working during the week) so he's at his office and my oldest child, a curious first grader is no doubt waving his shaggy hair and making symbols with a number two pencil. This is my only window to write this letter, please understand it's not going to be perfect.

I did a pretty extensive interview for a podcast yesterday. I was asked to tell my life story--specifically growing up, and now making a living and a home in Provo. It's easy for me to tell this part of my story: I grew up here, I went to school here, I went to college nearby, I got married here, I had babies here, I bought homes here, I work here. I like Provo. I think it's beautiful and it's generous. My husband and I have talked a lot about moving but where would we go? We live at the foot of gorgeous mountains, our kids walk across the street to school, we don't worry much about safety, we feel our community shares our values (for the most part, I mean, I am a passionate progressive), we love living in a college town, it's relatively cheap and we are very proud of the growing culture here. Plus, we happen to associate with the coolest people here. We love our people in Provo. Why else would we sacrifice a lot of our time for the Rooftop Concert Series, or keep my job as a community outreach adviser to the mayor himself?  I mean, we're dedicated.

And yet, the theme that kept boiling to the surface during this interview was my lamenting of a lack of female leadership in my youth. By an overwhelming percent, the leaders I saw at church, school, civic engagement as well as coaches and advisers in Provo were male. I rarely saw women navigating the waters of home and work, to be honest, I didn't even know it was possible. There was a hushed tagline attached to the narrative of women who worked, and it was, "Oh that's too bad, I wonder what is wrong with her husband?" This is incredibly unfortunate of course. Not only did women need to work in my community but some of them wanted to work--and that felt like a betrayal of morals. My biggest regret growing up in Provo was the distorted view of womanhood. And something tells me that has more to do with the times then it did with the location, although Provo has it's own unique set of patriarchal persuasions.

As an adult here in Provo I have come to realize that there are those of us here who don't want Provo to change. A lot of my neighbors would like to see Provo never depart from the traditions we've held on to for generations. But I've never felt compelled to recreate my childhood for my kids. On the contrary, I see my job as improving my childhood for my kids. One thing I would absolutely like improved for my children as they grow up in Provo is seeing an increase in women leadership. (But that's not all, acceptance of all diversity is something else I want more of in Provo.)

In two weeks all of us will have an opportunity to vote pro-female. Carina Wytiaz is running for a city-wide council seat on the Provo City Council and she's a smart choice. Not only does she understand Provo--as a fellow native (born, raised, educated) Provoan--but she's incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, contemplative, constructive and visionary. (And for the record Provo, she's also delightfully witty.) She's worked in our business and tech community for decades, she's the wife of a public school teacher and she's a natural leader who has an excellent grasp on smart economic growth and urban planning . Carina also gets what it's like as a mother of three kids to try to find work/life balance. And speaking of work/life balance, I have no doubt we can do a better job at achieving this together but we need people leading our community who understand its complexity.

(Also, she is my dear friend. If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time you would know this. She's had a significant part in the story of my life. I owe her a lot for increasing my worldview.)

I hear people say, "I want to vote for the best candidate--gender doesn't matter" and I would like to say something about that: until we have gender parity in our community gender will matter. We make gender an issue when we don't support viable women candidates--because it puts us in a bigger gender deficit. Gender will stop being an issue when we have closed the gender gap in our city. We are far from it. We need to be catching up today. I'm not asking you to vote for someone just because she is female, but I am asking you, if you have a strong candidate who is passionate about Provo, represents a smart future and understands the problems and progress we are seeing here, why wouldn't you vote for her?

As a daughter of Provo, I believe our children need to experience the expansive capabilities of women. They need it as much as balanced budget or a tax for recreation and art.  They need to see us engaged in promoting strong women into leadership. They need to see us women working to that end. Whenever I kiss my children good bye as I leave for a day of work solving community problems, or wave to them from the Rooftop Concert Series stage, or take them door-to-door as we campaign for a candidate we believe in, I think of the motto, "They cannot be what they cannot see."

Please help our daughters--and sons--see possibilities in Provo.
Join me in voting for Carina on NOVEMBER 3rd!

(Early voting starts today!)

Thanks.

Your Neighbor,
Courtney Clark Kendrick

p.s. for your consideration: