Quick! What’s Happening August 26, Really?

by Gloria Feldt on August 25th, 2015
in Activism, Feminism, Gender, Women's History and tagged

If you said “Women’s Equality Day,” you’d be right.

And if you said it’s the 95th anniversary of the date in 1920 when women’s right to vote officially entered the U.S. Constitution, you’d be spot on.

But the greater significance of this day is not about looking backward at quaint sepia photo of suffragists picketing the White House (though it is notable that the suffragists were the first people ever to picket the White House), but rather looking at the progress we can see today and forward toward the work yet to be done for women to reach full equality and leadership parity.

A good perfect storm on Women’s Equality Day 2015

Something important deserves to be recognized along with the historical significance of the day.

It’s a perfect storm in a good way for women’s progress.

Indications can be seen in an escalating number of firsts—from Jen Welter becoming the first female coach of an NFL football team to the first two women Army Rangers to a record number of women in the Forbes Richest People list to the election of Paulette Brown to be the first African-American women president of the staid American Bar Association.

Of course, individual firsts are cause for celebration. But they are just the start.

The biggest change I’ve noticed since I wrote No Excuses is more joy as women choose and work in their professions. Participating in the paid workforce for self-realization as well as economic necessity has become the norm. And that’s a big deal.

As Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, founder of WomenConnect4Good observes, women are changing the workplace as they go to one that is likely to be healthier for everyone:

An Ernst & Young study finds that Millennial women in particular are so serious about finding work-life balance, they’re willing to relocate to find it. Millennials are also more willing than other generations to pass up a promotion, change jobs, take a pay cut, or even change careers in order to achieve more flexibility. Millennials are an influential generation, perhaps destined to be as influential in their time as the Baby Boomers were in theirs. And just as the Baby Boomers changed the face of the workplace a generation ago, Millennials are on their way to doing the same in the years to come


New work to be done

All this good news means that on this Women’s Equality Day, it’s time for women to commit to think big and act bigger in order to reach full potential to bloom. One measure will be full parity from the boardroom to the bedroom, by #25not95. That would take women from holding the paltry under 20% of top leadership positions and earning 20% less than similarly situated men to full 50-50 parity in leadership and closing the wage gap across the board.

Economic power would help alleviate violence against women that remains a scourge, and revise the dismal fact that nearly six in 10 adults who live in poverty are women.

Making some of these challenges so difficult to overcome is culturally ingrained implicit bias. This remains despite an unassailable business case for women as drivers of profits and better decision making. As a result, we still see breathtaking data such as this on how companies drain women’s ambition early in their careers.

Many of today’s challenges echo the suffragists’

If you’ve wondered what’s the difference between “suffragists” and “suffragettes,” there are parallels with politically inspired media epithets about women today, as Megyn Kelly can attest.

IMG_3323The word “suffragette” was coined by British journalist Charles E. Hands in an article for the London Daily Mail in 1906. He intended the “ette” as a diminutive to belittle the work of suffragists and aimed to stop their advance to parity in this fundamental act of citizenship in a free society—the right to vote.

That’s a common phenomenon because, as philosophers such as Ghandi and Schopenhauer have said in various ways about those who seek social change that upsets the prevailing power balance, “first they laugh at you then they try to kill you, and then you win.”

No one remembers Hands today, but suffrage was won, Women’s Equality Day is noted on the calendar, and the world is crying out for the kind of leadership women bring to the table.

History has what some Native Americans call “long eyes.” “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. Progress requires the vision to see what is possible and the courage to make possible what others deem impossible.

I think Eleanor would agree there is a perfect storm FOR progress today. Not OF progress. Because no progress happens on its own. We must keep our vision clear, our shoulders to the wheel, and push together to full parity and equal opportunity in a culture that values each of us.

Wherever you are, you can probably find a Women’s Equality Day event to attend. And if you can’t, why not organize one yourself?

If you’re in New York or surrounds, join me and Women’s eNews founder and editor-in-chief, Rita Henley Jensen, on Women’s Equality Day—that’s August 26 as you know—from 6—8 pm when we host a reception, discussion of the day’s significance, and end with a delightful women’s history walk around lower Manhattan. Register here. Come talk about how we’ll keep this positive perfect storm blowing strong.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Take The Lead Presented and Connected in 2014—and Wants Your Suggestions for 2015

IMG_6939-X3Understanding the Role Confidence Plays Would workplaces become more balanced and society more equitable if women exhibited more confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman created a stir with their book The Confidence Code and their article, “The Confidence Gap” in The Atlantic. To continue this important conversation, we were honored to have Shipman speak to the Take The Lead community in July about how personal confidence relates to women advancing in the workplace and in society. Yes, women face very real barriers, no matter how confident we are, but leading with confidence expands our possibilities in ways that change our lives and the lives of other women. (Like this quote? Tweet it!) Did you attend this event with Shipman? What did you learn? This confidence question will surely be an ongoing conversation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts! TakeTheLead-80-X3The Solution to Feeling Stuck: Get a Coach! At Take The Lead we teach women to define their lives and careers on their own terms. But history has also told us how crucial it is to seek help when we need it. That’s why we were so excited to gather some of the best coaches we know for an event in NYC sponsored by the fabulous ALEX AND ANI. Alisa Cohn, Robyn Hatcher, Bonnie Marcus, Dana Balicki, Audrey S. Lee, Maggie Castro Stevens, and Leslie Grossman joined us to share their wisdom and generously donate hours of coaching time to attendees. See photos from the event and learn more here. 15777710358_506c524d16_o-X3Circling Up! One way we achieve leadership parity at Take The Lead is by working with women across all backgrounds, generations, and professional fields. And we’re proud to collaborate with a larger resurgent women’s movement. One way we create connections among women is through our online Take The Lead Community. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so to network and get honest, actionable advice from other accomplished women having valuable conversations. Soon we’ll be adding a mentoring component you won’t want to miss. Gearing Up for 2015 Stay in touch with Take The Lead by signing up for our newsletter, and following us Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks again to everyone who joined us this year and stay tuned for exciting developments in 2015! Remember! Please take a moment in the comments section to tell us what’s bugging you, highlight learning topics you want to see in our webcasts, courses, or blog, and suggest experts you admire. You can also tweet us at @takeleadwomen using the hashtag #takeleadwomen2015. If you’re moved by the work Take The Lead does to give women and men true parity across all sectors, it’s not too late to donate to enable us to Teach, Connect, and Present to more people next year. Read more about our strategy for change, Take The Lead’s 4 keys to leadership parity, here.