When I watched the combination of riots and peaceful protests this weekend, I remembered the moment I decided to devote my time to helping to advance gender equality. For the prior two years I had listened to loud voices, sometimes in the form of protests calling for equality for illegal immigrants, equality for LGBTQ, and with Black Lives Matter, equality for people of color. But there were no movements for gender equality. My thoughts were twofold: First, women are like that. Throughout history women have deprioritized their rights to help others. Second, women are not a minority group and if they set their mind on equality, they indisputably have the critical mass to achieve it. Even better equality for all minority groups would travel the same path. Women leaders are naturally more inclusive; perhaps because they know first-hand what discrimination feels like.
I decided the best avenue to do this was to figure out how to tackle discrimination that keeps women from senior positions of leadership. Why leadership? For two reasons: First, studies show that women are equally competent as leaders at every level. But while they are numerous at lower levels, they are less than 10 percent of the leaders of national governments and Fortune 500 companies – the most powerful positions for effecting change or preserving the status quo. Second, if women want to end discrimination, or said another way achieve gender equality, they must be present in numbers in these powerful decision-making positions. It’s a no brainer, right? When women have an equal presence in decision making, their unique ability to understand women’s issues and opportunities will lead to gender equality. I know lots of people aren’t going to sign up for equality for equality’s sake. But what if they knew that the researched benefits include: better financial outcomes, less poverty, less war, fewer female deaths, more innovation, less violence against women, and happier employees? Another no brainer.
So how do we tackle gender discrimination that limits the number of women leaders? I’m not a fan of protests or riots. The outcome of the social-media type protest, #MeToo, still stings. Women were emboldened and so were men against the movement. Since men hold most of the power, guess who won? Women striving for higher positions of leadership, found doors closed by powerful men who said they were afraid to be alone with them. Progress toward gender equality hit another setback. Instead I believe women will succeed if we can get a critical mass of aspirational women that truly want to alter society to get the training they need to persevere past discrimination and ultimately redefine the face of what constitutes truly effective leaders.
If you care to be part of this movement for gender equality, you can engage in a comprehensive women in leadership program that is being offered at no charge in 2020.
Join the movement for gender equality here.