In praise of women

March is National Women’s History Month and last Tuesday, March 8, was International Women’s Day. Both are occasions to honor the many women who have been an inspiration on the national—and even world—stage. From heads of state, like Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Angela Merkel, and Jacinda Ardern, to heads of companies, like Karen Lynch, Rosalind Brewer, and Oprah Winfrey, to leaders in science like Marie Curie and Katherine Johnson, to women in sports, literature, and the arts who are too numerous to name, women have impacted the world—often without getting their rightful recognition for it.

I myself have been fortunate to have lived a long life, rich in the company of wonderful women:

My mother, who raised six children in a tiny apartment in Queens, New York, was the first. She was a woman who never let life get her down. She didn’t demand perfection of herself and taught me to do the same. It was her example that inspired my saying, “Be imperfect, live longer!”

The hundreds of warm and talented women at Murad, and those who supported my medical practice and medi-spa, whose competence and friendship have always made going to work a pleasure.

My female colleagues in the fields of medicine, skincare, wellness, and media, whose perspective I value and whose generosity I appreciate.

My wife, Loralee, who knows how to have fun and who continually encourages my success.

My sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, cousins, granddaughters, and nieces, who enrich my life in countless ways.

Though not necessarily famous, these are the women who make National Women’s History Month meaningful to me. Much as we all need famous leaders to inspire us by their example, most of us are more deeply impacted by women who may never become famous but whose presence make a powerful difference in our own lives.

I think, for example, of my second- and third-grade teachers, whose names I still remember more than 70 years later. As a seven-year-old Iraqi immigrant, I spoke no English when I entered Mrs. Haggerty’s second-grade classroom. Yet she welcomed me and saw to it that, by the end of the year, I could speak, read, and write in my new language. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wyatt, too, must have made a big impression on me, for I still remember her name, as well, after all this time.

Throughout my life, women have generously reached out to share their experiences, answer my questions, and help me achieve my goals.

To this day, my life is made better by all of the women who populate it. Murad has always employed a high percentage of women. Today, our parent company, Unilever, boasts that 50% of its global management positions are held by women.

Once in 2007, the Guardian Observer magazine, out of London, named me on their list of the “50 men who really understand women.” The panel credited me for being one of the first to recognize the value of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and include them in our skincare formulations, and for creating a clinical skincare brand “long before anyone else—and out of a genuine desire to help his patients and not primarily as a money-making exercise.”

Although I was grateful for the recognition—especially from beyond the USA—I was also rather bemused by the title. “Men who really understand women?” It’s really not that difficult! If you like women, if you listen to them, and appreciate them as people, if you treat them as you would want to be treated, women will share themselves with you—and you will understand them!

Yet even as I say that, I recognize that women—like men—still have the capacity to surprise. Over the last two weeks, for example, the women of Ukraine have amazed me with their courage and resilience in the face of the Russian invasion. They have responded with defiance and countless acts of resistance, from taking up weapons, to making Molotov cocktails, to confronting military caravans with nothing but their upraised arms. Russian women, too, have bravely taken to the streets to protest the war, even though doing so can get them arrested and thrown in jail.

So yes, history has given us inspirational women leaders to celebrate. I am grateful for their example. History has also given us less famous women who show up to do what needs to be done, day after day. I hope you will take this opportunity to celebrate them, as well.

Be imperfect live longer card


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