In this Women’s History Month, I ask, “What world do we want to leave our daughters?”
I mean that figuratively—as I’m a mom to two sons. But I do think about the question a lot, especially during Women’s History Month. If I did have a daughter, what type of world would I want for her? How would I want the workplace to look?
I think we can all agree: there is no Perfect, and there never will be. Everything can be better, including us. That’s why we read books, explore different hobbies, travel. We want to grow. We want to learn. We want to share other people’s experiences and cultures. We want to widen our lens. We want to be better. As American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.”
Here’s the thing: As women, very often it can seem as though we’re not winning. But we are! All of these accomplishments occurred in just the last five years:
- Elizabeth MacDonough was the first female appointed as Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.
- Janet Wolfenbarger was the first female four-star general in the U.S. Air Force.
- Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate a National Football League game in a pre-season matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers.
- General Motors named Mary Barra as its first female CEO and the first female CEO of a major automaker.
- Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate as the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve.
- Michele A. Roberts was elected as the new Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, thus making her the first woman to be elected to the highest position of a major sport’s players association within the United States.
- Becky Hammon became the first full-time female coach in the NBA—and the first full-time female coach in any of the four major professional sports in America—as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
- Dr. Connie McCaa became the first American woman and the first Mississippi doctor inducted into the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Hall of Fame.
- Megan Smith was named as the first female Chief Technology Officer of the United States.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton was formally nominated at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016, becoming the first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.
- Nasdaq Inc. named Adena Friedman as its next chief executive officer, which makes her the first woman to lead a major U.S. stock exchange operator.
In just this smallest sampling, we see proof that we’re moving the needle. We’re shattering glass ceilings. We’re winning. (Also read my colleague Morag Lucey’s blog on this topic.)
Is there still work to be done? Absolutely, and a lot of it. And not just in the United States, in all parts of the world. That’s where we come in. If all of us apply feminism within our own lives, as it relates to our own circumstances, it can create meaningful change on a global scale.
People ask me all the time: what’s the single greatest thing we can do to drive gender parity? My answer never changes: let your voice be heard. The Women’s March, a worldwide protest held in 2017, is an excellent example of women standing together—embracing the men who stand beside them—to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. Worldwide participation was estimated at 5 million. In the U.S., it was the largest demonstration in history.
How’s that for leaning in?
What struck me most about the gathering (I was in Washington DC with my sons for this event) was how orderly, thoughtful and respectful it was. That’s exactly how we amplify and elevate our message. That’s how we get those who hold opposing views to listen. That’s how we win.
So what kind of world and workplace do I want to leave our daughters? The same thing I want to leave my sons. I want a world and a workplace that continue to progress—one that isn’t afraid to change, evolve and grow.
How do we achieve this? We succeed by becoming the change we want to see.
All of us need to say what we mean, question everything, keep our emotions in check and really listen to every side of an issue. We need to learn to not take things too personally, assume positive intent, and then work with each other to achieve the best outcomes for ourselves and our movement, sharing credit along the way. More importantly, we need to see men as partners, not as enemies. Our efforts will be maximized by working with the opposite sex, not against them.
Women’s History Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate all those women who came before us and challenged the status quo, profoundly changing the ways in which women are viewed today in families, the workplace, and society as a whole. And while it’s wonderful and necessary to celebrate these warriors, it’s also important to celebrate the unsung heroes—those who move the needle every day, those we don’t necessarily hear about, and those we unintentionally take for granted: female doctors, firefighters, mothers, humanitarian aides, police officers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, teachers, military personnel, etc. The list goes on, and all of us are on it. And that’s exactly why female contributions will continue to change the world around us. And change it for the better. Feel proud this month and always. I am!