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  • Jenny Hoffman

Why You Need to Share Your Lottery Ticket

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

In honor of Women's Equality Day

Birth is the biggest lottery in life, and my lottery ticket included two other people on it.

You see, I’m a triplet. To the right are my other two-thirds: Tom and Will.

When we were born, Ronald Reagan sent my parents a letter congratulating them on our birth. We received free diapers and formula, and we were featured in our local paper. Being a multiple was kind of like being a D-list celebrity: it had just enough perks to make you feel special but not enough to make you entitled.

Growing up with two boys had many advantages, in large part due to my parents treating us with equal love and giving us equal opportunities. It ensured that by the time I hit kindergarten, my social skills were second-to-none. In high school, I made the varsity golf team, because I had insisted on joining my brothers at the driving range in junior high. As teenagers, we’d have co-ed sleepovers, each making a pact to invite someone on whom our siblings had a crush (don’t worry, Mom and Dad, we kept it clean). It also probably played a small but significant role in my decisions to go to an all-women’s college (#SMCforever, #CoedNever), become one of the leads of Spotify’s Women's group, and invest time in building my relationship with my older sister.

It also had its fair share of challenges. There were some instances where the realities of being different smacked me in the face. I vividly remember going to recess in fifth grade, and when it came time for the boys to pick teams for touch football, I was one of the last people chosen—not because I was bad, but because I was a girl. I couldn’t understand: I had played football in our front yard with my brothers for years, and yet when it came time for recess, none of the boys wanted me on their team. Their loss, I thought (I ended up scoring more touchdowns than the entire fifth grade class combined that day, thank you very much). But the thought still nagged me: I was good at football, and I was a good teammate who encouraged the players around me. Why hadn’t that been recognized?

Those recess days are long gone. Today, on Women’s Equality Day, I am reflecting on what equality means to me. And I am quite certain of one thing: equality means ensuring that my lottery ticket continues to include other people, even if it doesn’t ensure my victory. Just like my lottery ticket at birth encompassed people different from me, so too must yours: if you want to truly win, you need to help other people on the way to success.

It has been a critical lesson for me in the professional world, and if I’m being honest, one with which I’ve struggled. At some jobs, I have loved the opportunity to work with a team, to combine our different yet collective strengths, to share the credit and the glory. It’s when the best work happens. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it, and I strive for it every time I work with others. It truly feels like winning the lottery.

And yet at other companies, while I have understood the theory behind collaborating on projects and working together toward a common goal, I have too often seen the execution go awry: the person who contributed the least gets the most credit, a teammate doesn’t correct your boss when he asks whose great idea it was, you put more effort toward helping others shine while forgetting to champion yourself, or your individual contribution gets buried with the team’s efforts. My brothers and I have always played fairly and together, rooting for each other’s successes and championing each other. In business though, I find that the system can be broken...and yet, it doesn’t discourage me from playing the game.

Of course, sexism usually isn’t as blatant as being chosen last during recess. I’ve found that sexism is sometimes so veiled that it’s hard to recognize, especially within our own sex. For example, while I deeply commend the women who helped ratify the 19th Amendment (and will happily be putting that right into practice this fall during the election), even they seemed to forget this critical sentiment: the law they passed on behalf of women actually didn’t allow BIPOC women to vote.

Playing the lottery is risky, it can be expensive, and it’s a bet that rarely pays off. But when it does, it’s life-changing. It’s a risky move, I know, to trust in the process, to include other people on your lottery ticket, the ticket that you feel would make you, and you alone, rich. But if you don’t get the credit or you don’t come out on top, it doesn’t matter—you’re walking away with more money than you had when you started. You need to start acting like you’re playing the lottery with other people on your ticket: it’s the only way to ensure equality becomes table stakes.

I guarantee you that if you do, well, you just might hit the jackpot.

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