Annually March is Women’s History month and I could not let it go by without commenting about some of our history as women. 100 years ago women finally got the right to vote in the United States. It took decades for the 19th amendment to finally be ratified on August 18, 1920. It is interesting to note that the 15th amendment ratified in 1870 (50 years earlier) gave men of color or previous servitude the right to vote, yet women were excluded. Gaining the right to vote was a long gnarly process. The amendment gave women an official voice, and in the year the amendment passed 8 million women voted. Since then women typically outvote men in most presidential elections.
It wasn’t until 1900 when women would get substantial control over their property across every state in the U.S. (mostly for white women, not all). It would take until the 1970’s for women to get the ability to have a credit card without their husband co-signing. There is so much more history about the lack of women’s rights in this country, that most of us have not heard about. I think it is important that we have a deeper collective understanding as women that the culture we live in has worked against our freedom and ability to control our own destinies for a very long time. Many things have changed, yet so much still has not.
Women have been relegated to second place, smaller roles, the jobs that are less impactful. Even when they are in a top job, they are usually paid much less. Only 5% of S+P 500 companies have women CEOs. If you want to see more data about women and minority representation across many sectors and why diversity matters, here is some research from Catalyst:
Women lead differently, and much research in the business world suggests we are also more effective at garnering better results and positively affecting the bottom line. I myself am looking to women to lead the future. For me, those that have been leading (mostly older white men) have had their day, decade/centuries. Time is up. The Patriarchy pendulum needs to swing back to the middle and just a bit over. We need more women leaders.
So many questions bubble up in me. Why hasn’t a woman been president in the United States? Why are there so few women leading major corporations? Why so fewer women in political leadership, even with the strides we have made more recently? Are women choosing not to lead? Are they getting overlooked or not seen as leaders? Why as a nation can we spend billions on defense, but so little on taking care of our people and the earth, and our future leaders? Why are so many schools underfunded to prepare our future leaders? Why are so many endeavors to prepare women as leaders also underfunded or in the non-profit realm? Why are we not making leadership development for more non-traditional leaders a priority?
Like always, when I ask these big questions I need to start by looking at myself. How am I leading my life? How am I leading my business? Where am I lending my voice, my strengths and power and am I able to be seen? I myself have had that feeling lately that I am playing too small, not being heard and not having the impact I am here to have. I must change this if I want to see leadership reflected differently in the larger world, like we all must. Per Ghandi, we must be the change we want to see in the world (yes, a man said that, and I think he was a pretty evolved man).
I think for women there are many factors that come into play. I believe that we have all been strongly conditioned by our institutions such as places of business, laws, religion, education, families, social mores, the media, political/power systems and so on. These forces have created a sort of mythology or belief about leaders, and the role of men and women-that is still mostly unconscious. Leaders are mostly seen as male. Even our myths and stories (often told in movies/literature) more often speak of the Hero’s journey, not the heroines. Heroes look like this (big, strong, male…). And yes, yes there is Wonder Woman, but really–fighting in a skirt and lowcut skin-tight bodice with heeled boots? We can’t even have a heroine in the 21st century that isn’t a sex object as she fights evil. I say it is time to change this conditioning. It starts with each of us.
100 years ago we got the vote, because women worked tirelessly on our behalf. And yet here we are we are still underrepresented; overworked; underpaid; undervalued; over objectified. If more women were in charge, do you think they would be ok with that? Yes, many things have changed, yet there is so much more that needs to. The Patriarchy is alive and well, and WE need to desire and create balance. Leadership does not need to be either male or female, but women need to play a bigger role.
Ladies the days of leaning in are over, it is time to rise up and lead like women uniquely can. How are you investing in yourself and younger women as leaders? What gets in your way?
To close, I want to showcase a poem from a member of the next generation of female leaders who gets it:
Centuries have come and passed us by,
Countries have grown,
But women are behind.
Have we not shown the world what we can do?
From Winfrey to Curie,
From me and from you?
We are more than just mothers and wives and bakers,
We’re scientists, soldiers, leaders, and world changers.
They may think us small, pretty, and cute,
But we are Brilliant and Bold,
And will not go mute.
We will continue to challenge how the world sees us,
Continue to defy the way we are labeled,
Continue to show why women’s ideas are a must,
Continue to chip away at the glass ceiling that hangs above us.
Eventually that glass will shatter,
And we will leap over the shards,
When we have finished the race,
How will we help the world become a better place?
By Treasure Joyce, age 17