New Feature

Helping Women Move Out of the Shadows and Get the Credit They Deserve

Women have been left in the shadows and not given the credit they deserve. Last month, NASA made a course correction and officially renamed a facility in West Virginia after Katherine Johnson. You may remember Katherine, an African-American mathematician and centenarian whose career was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures.” This was not the first public acknowledgement of her work. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Johnson and other black women mathematicians, who worked in NASA’s computing pool more than 50 years ago, were separated from their white colleagues, and commonly called, “colored computers.” These women calculated trajectories for the Apollo missions, and Johnson herself tracked several major missions, including Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 in 1961 and John Glenn’s Friendship 7. “Hidden Figures” highlighted Johnson and other black women’s fight for equality in the workplace.

The lack of acknowledgement Johnson received for her work is not an isolated incident. Women have not received credit for a number of brilliant breakthroughs and achievements for hundreds of years. Sometimes deliberately stole credit for women’s work, other times the recognition was transferred more indirectly. This has created a false myth that women’s history lacks great creative and intellectual achievement, which undermines women’s past and future accomplishments, and has largely erased their work from history books, and eliminated powerful role models from the stories we tell our children.

Johnson and her colleagues are just one example of remarkable women throughout history who didn’t get the credit they deserved for revolutionizing the world we live in.

Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fusion. As acting director for the Institute for Chemistry in 1933, Meitner had to flee after Hitler came to power, but kept in touch with chemist Otto Hahn. Letters between the two of them show that they discovered nuclear fission together in the 1930s. Meitner was denied proper credit due because she was Jewish and a refugee, whereas Hahn, who stayed loyal to the Nazis, later won the Nobel Prize for this work, and refused to give Meitner credit.

Trotula of Solerno was a pioneer in women’s health. An Italian doctor in the eleventh century who wrote specifically about women’s health, Trotula of Solerno has been recognized as “the world’s first gynecologist.” Her writings are still considered building blocks in our knowledge about human health, and women’s health specifically. However, her work had been questioned over the centuries because historians and medical professionals were skeptical that a woman could have produced works of such accuracy or importance.

Hedy Lamarr invented wireless communication. During World War II, Hedy Lamarr worked closely with George Antheil to develop the idea of “frequency hopping,” which would have prevented the bugging of military radios. The U.S. Navy ignored her patent though and used her research to develop new technologies. Years later, her patent was rediscovered, which led to her receiving the Electronic Frontier Foundation award shortly before her death in 2000.

Anna Arnold Hedgeman organized the March on Washington. Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman on the organizing committee for the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. But according to Bowdoin College professor Jennifer Scanlon, the civil rights leader was “hidden, concealed, out of sight” by the men around her. Not only did Hedgemen galvanize many different groups of people to participate in the march, she organized transportation and made sure attendees had food and water.

While these women’s stories, and many more like them, have been uncovered and are once again being shared and told, there are tens of thousands of women whose work remains in the shadows. Take for example the women who fought for our right to vote, or the multiple black women who were part of the Civil Rights Movement, and today the women who march, and who courageously share their stories through the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp. Their stories need to be told and their achievements celebrated so their work can light the way and for other women to follow.

The women whose work has shaped our history have created the foundation for us to boldly move into the future and have paved the way for us to pursue parity in political office, equity in men-dominated workplaces, equal access to high-status professions, equal treatment after divorce, and punishment of sexual harassment and rape. They have set the stage for us to achieve full equality. We need to share their stories and write our own—giving ourselves the credit we deserve.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama and No Drama Leadership says In This Together, “Offers women a powerful perspective about how to advance, how to get support and how to give support to others.”

Check out In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life to see how you can develop a community of like-minded allies…there’s a ton of actionable insights from 40 successful women that will help you harness the collective power of that community.”

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

When It Comes to Networks, Women Need Quality Connections

Networks are key to anyone’s career advancement, but this is especially true for women, who are underrepresented at all levels of business, from first tier managers to the C-Suite. That means peers and colleagues aren’t readily available in the workplace, and a woman must step outside of her daily professional connections to find the support and quality networks that she needs.

Even though women are strong collaborators and communicators, we tend to have fewer business-related connections than our male counterparts. We also tend to divide the connections we do have into personal and professional groups, with less evident overlap than men. This presents some challenges when it comes to building or advancing our careers.

New research in Harvard Business Review by Brian Uzzi, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, finds that when looking at groups of MBAs—analyzing both the makeup of the subjects’ networks and the types of jobs they found after graduation – men benefit not so much from size of network but from being central in a network, or connected to multiple “hubs,” or people who have a lot of contacts across different groups. Women also benefit from being central in a network, “but to achieve the executive positions with the highest levels of authority and pay they also had to have an inner circle of close female contacts, despite having similar qualifications to men including education and work experience.”

Uzzi concludes, “Because women seeking positions of executive leadership often face cultural and political hurdles that men typically do not, they benefit from an inner circle of close female contacts that can share private information about things like an organization’s attitudes toward female leaders, which helps strengthen women’s job search, interviewing, and negotiation strategies.”

For women it isn’t the size of the network that matters, it’s the type of connections that make a difference. Thankfully, a woman’s most formidable strength is her ability to build relationships. This is what networking is really about, not just connecting on LinkedIn, trading cards, or getting business leads. True networks are built on commonalities and trust. You can’t predict when someone you know might make a connection to help you in your career or your life, or when you might help someone else with a referral. The depth and breadth of your network also build a personal and professional safety net, and the connections themselves can bring great joy and satisfaction.

Small Networks Can Make a Big Difference

A strong network doesn’t have to be big to be effective. This is a topic addressed in the book, In This Together, where we discuss a time in Dr. Nancy’s life where she struggled with feeling a lack of support and decided to build a community of like-minded women who would support each other, and realized that when we help one another, anything is possible. “I found that community with the women I call my Psyche Sisters,” she said. “All eight of us were seasoned therapists working on our doctorates in clinical psychology. We gave each other moral, physical, and emotional support, and all eight of us received our doctorates and became licensed psychologists. We have continued for more than twenty years to meet, reflect, encourage, and celebrate who we are as women and psychologists.”

A Strong Network of Women Can Change a Community

We also share the story of Paige Oxendine and Rachel Anderson in the book, In This Together, who were united in a determination to make a difference and show what women can do. They noticed that the leadership of almost everything in their Springfield, Missouri, community could be characterized as overwhelmingly “male, pale, and stale,” and they asked, “Where are all the young women and minorities?

With a grant from the Women’s Foundation in Kansas City, they set up a women’s network, which they named Rosie, and held their launch party the week after the November 2016 presidential election. The realized they’d struck a nerve when more than 200 women showed up. Today, Rosie provides a support and advocacy system, as well as a referral pipeline for female speakers and board members. Their mission is to help connect, partner, collaborate and continue to increase the support and access to resources for women as it relates to professional development, business assistance and leadership, and they support, assist and serve as an advocate network for current and prospective female founders, business owners and leaders in the Springfield region.

Network with Purpose

To build a network that will help you through the good days and bad, and help you continue to advance, think quality over quantity. It’s less about how many people you know, and more about who those people are. Uzzi also recommends that you embrace randomness and diversify your network and inner circle.

Ultimately, you have to put your skills to work and build a network with purpose and focus on connections that can be mutually beneficial. We’re in this together, and we, as women, have a lot of momentum. As we intentionally continue to connect and support one another, we can reach our professional goals, and build a workplace that works for women and men.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Ms. Career Girl says that, “Just as with getting clear on your goals and resolutions, you don’t have to imagine all this from scratch. Check out In This Together to see how you can develop a community of like-minded allies…there’s a ton of actionable insights from 40 successful women that will help you harness the collective power of that community.”

In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, is filled with thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life.

Ready to learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the binds of gender inequality? Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today!

Taking Springfield by Storm!

This week has been one for the books as I returned to Springfield, Missouri and spoke to a number of smart, amazing women (and men) about my latest book, In This Together. The energy that happens when you gather a group of powerful women together is just the best, and this trip was filled with great energy.

I started the day taking part in the Speaker Series for The Association for Women in Communications. This group is comprised of women who are passionate about communications, driven toward greatness, motivated to lead, and inspired to elevate the future. During lunch, I talked about many of the key issues addressed throughout In ThisTogether and had the opportunity to have some great conversations with attendees afterwards.

It was then on to spend an evening with Rosie, a phenomenal group that is highlighted on pages 230-232 in, In This Together. Rosie is network of local women committed to helping other women reach their goals, whether that is to join a board, start a business, land a new job, etc. It is an ideal place to meet the women shaping the community, and provides a support and advocacy system for members, as well as a referral pipeline for female speakers and board members. Their mission is to help connect, partner, collaborate and continue to increase the support and access to resources for women as it relates to professional development, business assistance and leadership, and they support, assist and serve as an advocate network for current and prospective female founders, business owners and leaders in the Springfield region. I would also like to give a big thanks to the men and women at Missouri Trust & Investment Company for sponsoring the evening’s event.

Both events were filled with connections, questions, and conversations on how we, together, can move women’s issues forward, and were equally inspiring and energizing. I can definitely say that I, along with my Women Connect4Good team, had a wonderful time taking Springfield by storm!

Mean Boss or Misunderstood Leader?

It wasn’t long after Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that she was running for president that reports from former staffers depicted her as a brutal mean boss. According to a piece in Politico, former aides, all speaking anonymously, describe a toxic work environment that included everything from demeaning emails to thrown office supplies and requests for staff to perform personal chores.

Klobuchar has defenders too, including former staffers who have gone on the record to push back against the stories, and, “suggest that the critique is grounded in sexism against a woman who demands excellence from her employees.” Forbes reports that many of Klobuchar’s supporters also argue that, “she was being targeted due to her gender and that a man in her position would be considered ‘tough’ instead of toxic.”

Is Klobuchar tough? Is she a bully? The victim of a smear campaign? Or maybe just misunderstood? We will probably never know, but can definitely sympathize with those who feel victimized, and remind them that they are not alone. Studies show that while 60–70 percent of bullies at work are men, 30–40 percent are women, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), they all target women two-thirds of the time.  As we write in In This Together, workplace bullying is so common in various forms that almost three-fourths of employees have been affected by bullying, either as a target or a witness, according to research from Dr. Judith Lynn Fisher-Blando with the University of Phoenix. In fact, WBI has reported that bullying on the job is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination.

While it’s true that assertive women are much more likely to be viewed as bossy or even as bullies than their male counterparts, we can’t assume just because someone is a woman her behaviors are being mislabeled or misinterpreted when charges are made. So how do you know when your boss is being tough, and when they’ve crossed the line? Start by checking your bias. Take a searching and honest look at yourself and the situation:

  • Is there any way you might be misinterpreting what’s going on?
  • Are you the victim of a bullying campaign, or just upset by someone’s manner or tone?
    Does this person treat everyone that way or just you?
  • Are you treating everyone with the same courtesy and respect, or are you being high-handed and demanding to some?
  • Are you performing your job as well as you can, or are you making life difficult for others?

If this isn’t a bullying situation, what can you learn from it? How can you adjust your behavior? And if this is a bullying situation, what do you want to do about it? By finding ways to support the humanity of workplace bullies while working to eliminate their toxic behaviors, you may be able to develop more productive, supportive relationships. However, if you are in a hopelessly toxic situation, focus your efforts on finding your next job ASAP. Picture how great you will feel when this is behind you and new prospects are opening up with a new, better employer and a work group in which you can develop supportive relationships.

In This Together shares a number of ways you can work through workplace bullying issues, eliminate toxic behaviors, salvage your position and move forward. Learning to deal with conflict in positive ways, practicing good communication skills with everyone at work, and exhibiting understanding and compassion will help transform the company into a productive, positive place where you and your coworkers can build your careers together. A tough boss can be a learning experience and challenge you to reach professional excellence. Remember that we all have a shared goal at work to do our best work and make our organization successful. When you focus on that goal and support one another, it becomes much more fun and reduces misunderstandings and perceived slights among leaders and fellow employees.

Whether You March or Not, You Need to Stay Engaged

Did you march on post-inauguration Saturday in 2017? If you did, you engaged with 4.6 million people in 642 cities on every continent on the globe who demonstrated for women’s rights. One year later, women recognized that anniversary, and once again used the streets to express their concerns. Proving that there is power in numbers, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in major cities and small towns around the globe, sharing messages as diverse as the marchers.

This year, as women again took to the streets marking the third anniversary of the Women’s March, the messages seemed even more diverse, and participants even less cohesive than in prior years. Since its inception in 2017, the Women’s March has been dogged by accusations that it does not speak for all women. As Gloria Feldt pointed out, while the 2019 iteration fielded respectable showings in major cities around the world, there is no question that some wind has gone out of its sails.

Many expressed concerns leading up to the 2018 Women’s March too, voicing fears that the movement lacked the cohesiveness necessary to move forward. Experts warned that there were too many special interests and too many different messages represented to truly affect change. However, what’s important to remember is that it has brought change and done what it was established to do. The Women’s March aimed to engage women from all walks of life and inspire them to continue their activism long after they returned home. In many ways, that goal has been realized.

Despite fractures and differences of opinion, the Women’s March is not doomed to fail. Since the early 19th century, the women’s movement in the United States has fractured along lines of race, class, age and religion. Yet strategic coalitions among these feminists have generated important victories for women’s rights, showing us that the divisions within the Women’s March do not represent an existential threat to the feminist movement.

As we wrote in In This Together, for more than 200 years, women have organized, fought, campaigned, sacrificed, and supported each other to gain the rights to inherit property, to keep their children, get an education, pursue a career, vote, hold office, and the list goes on. Although they often received no credit, women whose intersecting identities left them marginalized with less privilege have nonetheless continued to lead the movements for women’s equality. It’s time to follow their lead. It’s time to exercise all those hard-won rights to achieve true equality now.

Our commitment to change also cannot be limited to a cold Saturday in January. We must maximize the impact of movement building on the individual level — reinforcing the network of support around ourselves and generously helping other women succeed. We should never forget how fortunate we are to live in this time and take part in this movement for equality for all women, everywhere. We can dwell on what’s wrong; we can worry if it will work. Or we can say, “Today is the first day of what remains of my life, and I want to see women achieve equality before I die.”

I for one am going to focus on what I can do every day and join my dear friend Gloria Feldt who said she would “spend zero time angsting about the schisms. I’ll keep moving women forward in my way, toward taking our fair and equal share of leadership in all sectors, including business, professions, and nonprofit or social profit work, not just politics. Taking powerful positions is way more impactful than railing against power.”

Two years ago, thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, and the march events provided a rare chance to build networks of like-minded people. These networks formed in 2017 have grown and expanded, and the women involved remain active. Clearly, this is our time, so let’s keep the actions and momentum building. Let’s ask for what we want, support other women in exercising our “power to,” and believe in our abundant ability to change the world, together.

Order Dr. Nancy’s new book today!

Gloria Steinem has said Dr. Nancy’s new book will “help us create community, success, and well-being.” Find out why and order your copy (and gifts for your friends) of In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life–thoughts, advice, and stories from 40 successful women across a variety of careers—from authors to actresses, CEOs and professors—encouraging women to support each other in the workplace and in life. Learn about action plans on how all women can work together to break free from the bonds of gender inequality. Get engaged and stay engaged by reading and sharing the powerful messages for women in this new book.

Why Gaining Equality Inspires Women’s Hope

What a thrill to experience women’s quest for equality through the play, “Gloria: A Life” in New York City this past weekend! The theater-in-the-round evoked Gloria Steinem’s living room, with each seat backed by a colorful pillow, the stage filled with Persian rugs and ethnic prints, stacks of books, and electrified by a powerful ensemble cast of eight women actors. Multi-media projections brought history to life as Christine Lahti enacted Steinem’s career, starting as a “girl writer” in the news industry of the time, which was unashamedly dominated by white men, also portrayed to entertaining effect by women actors.

For two hours, we were THERE with the young Gloria as she struggled to escape the pink ghettos of fashion and beauty writing assignments, as she fought to gain recognition for her skills rather than her looks, and as she learned from experienced African-American organizers. Over the decades and in community with other women, she gained the courage to overcome her fear of public speaking and began her life’s work as an organizer.   We learned with her, as she spoke with other activists hundreds of times each year, learning and educating around a still-radical notion: women and men arefully equal and human.

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter sat riveted throughout the performance, and said she learned a lot that she had not known about the women’s fight for equality. I learned a lot too:

  • That the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy, that Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to attend the Constitutional Convention as consultants, and that their first question was, “Where are your women?”
  • That despite denigrating public pronouncements by national (male) TV commentators, the first issue of magazine, which Steinem co-founded and published free of fashion and beauty advertising in 1971, sold out in Los Angeles in just eight days.
  • That experienced women activists of color were allowed to speak to the media only about race while Steinem, a newbie, was elevated as the spokesperson for women’s issues (which might explain a lot about racial tensions surrounding the 2016 Women’s Marches.)
  • That the protesters who piled bras, girdles and other restrictive clothing into a barrel never set a match to it because they could not get a fire permit and were too obedient to break the law, even though the press forever after dubbed them “Bra Burners.”

And so much more. What a great teaching tool! I hope the play becomes popular in high school theater programs because young people need to understand what it took to gain the rights they enjoy today.

The play is adapted from Steinem’s fascinating 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, and if you can’t get to New York to see the play, you should read the book. At the performance I attended, which was a benefit for TakeTheLead, Steinem herself led the audience discussion that forms an integral part of every performance. Women and men, young and old, asked questions, shared personal stories, and expressed their appreciation for the doors Steinem and her peers opened for all women today. Rights young women take for granted today were absolutely outrageous ideas then.  Sexual harassment, previously accepted as “just life,” is now a thingthat women can fight. Today women have a legal basis for seeking equal pay, equal opportunity, and the right to control our own bodies, even though progress is uneven and continually threatened.

Steinem, now 84, noted in her closing comments one benefit of growing old: she can remember when things were so much worse than today. She stressed that women’s equality is not something to be won in a mass movement later, but by each woman every day doing a small thing to stand up for equal rights. We gain the courage for those actions by connecting and living in community with others, sharing our stories, laughing and crying, and making our plans together. She left us with a challenge and a question: “What outrageous action for equality will you take in the next 24 hours?”

How to Balance Your Crazy Busy Holiday Season

‘Tis not the season to run yourself ragged, but I know that for many women, that’s what happens during the holidays. If your constant companion is an endless to-do list, you are not alone. As women, we tend to give, and give, and give some more taking care of people at home, at work, and in the community. Now that we’re well into the holiday season – aka the season of giving – we ramp that up and our time revolves around (likely unreasonable) expectations about parties, shopping, gifts, and spending time with friends and family. In the quest to hit the deadline, find the perfect gift or attend the next party many of us lose sight of our own health and wellbeing. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves overwhelmed, too exhausted to do or give another thing, and waiting anxiously for the holidays to be over.

With all you have to do, it may seem counter intuitive to reach out to another woman for help. Sure, she’s busy too, but your women friends really can help you get through a stressful holiday season with year-end deadlines at work. With their encouragement, you will find new ways to be kinder to yourself and maybe even cross things off your list, as long as you can find the courage to ask for the help you need. As we wrote in, In This Together, “You can put five women together in a room, and within an hour they’ll have analyzed the problem, made a plan, divided up the action steps, and begun to work toward a solution. Women share skills of problem solving and mutual respect and complement one another’s strengths.”

With our “tend and befriend” approach to stressful situations, women can be your strongest allies and your greatest source of encouragement this time of year. A quick cup of coffee with a friend could help you prioritize and develop a path forward. A quick phone call with a colleague can give you an action plan and make your unmanageable situation suddenly doable. We have been taught to conceal our vulnerability. But when we act authentically and invite others to help us solve a problem, we discover strength and power to accomplish things far beyond anything we can do alone.

Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change, knows that it’s a balancing act and that it can be tough to manage overwhelm at the end of the year. At this time of year, leaders like Kathy can be thinking, “I can’t believe how much I have to do. I can’t believe other people have already done their holiday shopping while I haven’t done laundry in a month.” Kathy recommends three tips to manage end-of-year overwhelm:

  1. Write everything down to manage the details
  2. Take your time on each task rather than rushing
  3. Take yourself for a walk at least three times a week

Those are all great, effective ideas, and I want to add: Reach out to other women. Especially during the holidays, each of us needs to support other women everywhere. Not one of us is as creative, skilled, and powerful as we are together.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do for your health and well-being this season – and every other day of the year – is to be true to yourself. You really can’t be all things to all people. No, you can’t. So take a break, take a breath, and nurture yourself and your connections. You deserve a happy holiday season, too! And the better care you take of yourself, the more you will have to give. It’s a miracle!

Gloria Steinem’s Endorsement is Something I Cherish

This is a big thank you to Gloria Steinem, who endorsed our new book, In This Together – How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. I will thank her in person on December 15 when I attend the play “Gloria, A Life” in Manhattan (please join us there), but I’d like to tell you now why it means so much to me that she wrote:

“Whether our problem is isolation in a male-dominant culture, distance across racial barriers, living in front of a computer screen, or all three, Nancy O’Reilly’s In This Together will help us to create community, success, and well-being.”

That’s exactly what I hoped this book would do, and Steinem’s radical idea that we are “linked, not ranked” is the key to women to supporting each other. When we join together around our common goals for women and girls, there’s no limit to what we can do. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by income, social standing, race, ethnicity, gender expression, background, or any other differences. As a traveling feminist, Steinem learned “one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” That’s crazy talk, right!

Gloria Steinem, as you know, is a feminist activist and organizer who has stood up for her belief in the equality and full humanity of women and men since the 1960s. It’s this simple yet radical concept that underlies women’s worldwide fight for equality. She is a thrilling writer and thinker, author of five books, and co-founder of NewYork magazine and Ms. Magazine, where she still serves as consulting editor. Steinem and I are united in our support for Take The Lead, as they seek to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to leadership parity by 2025.

In My Life on The Road, Steinem tells stories about the travels and relationships that have shaped her activism. She lived in India as a young woman, and that is where she first witnessed the power of talking circles, where everyone in the village had a chance to speak and listen in turn, and the goal was understanding and consensus rather than winning or losing.

Why Equality for Women Frightens People

Change is about more than uniting people in a movement, though. Steinem encourages others to find their voices, noting, “The first step toward speaking for others is speaking up for ourselves.” By suggesting that women should have equality everywhere, she up-ended the patriarchal power structure. People who have power usually fight to keep it, and feminists became a lightning rod for criticism, controversy and often vocal protests. Even some women have felt more threatened by this idea than liberated.

We write a lot in In This Together about the many gender stereotypes that limit women’s aspirations and behavior. Refusing to accept those limits when writing in praise of the benefits of travel, Steinem pointed out, “Even the dictionary defines adventurer as “a person who has, enjoys, or seeks adventures,” but adventuress is “a woman who uses unscrupulous means in order to gain wealth or social position.”

When people fretted that Steinem was in danger when traveling alone, she pointed out, “Records show that women are most likely to be beaten or killed at home and by men they know. Statistically speaking, home is an even more dangerous place for women than the road.”

Full equality would empower women to provide safety for ourselves and our families, and to pursue any career. Steinem recalls working as the only “girl writer” on a pioneering political satire TV show. Women were – and are – poorly represented in the writing room, she wrote, “probably because the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.”

Have you noticed that when women gather together, we laugh a lot? When we link together joyfully around our common humanity and goals, it’s a wonderful life! Women are better off now than at any time in history, due in large part to the continuing work of courageous women. We’re keeping it going. Thank you, Gloria Steinem for taking the lead.

2018 – An Amazing Year for Powerful Women in Politics

Woman holding sign in crowd that says Volting is my Super PowerWhen women and girls are empowered to participate fully in society, everyone benefits. ~ Melinda Gates

In 2018, women across the country were elected to a record number of local and statewide offices. The “Pink Wave” also swept across the nation in midterm elections that carried young women and veterans to victory in Senate and governors’ races and brought some major breakthroughs for women of color. Some of the big winners of the year were seasoned leaders, like Michigan governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, and Kansas governor-elect Laura Kelly. But many of the toughest House races were won by political neophytes taking their first steps into electoral politics.

The “firsts” this year included: 

  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Iham Omar of Minnesota became the first and second Muslim women elected to Congress.
  • Deb Haaland of Arizona and Sharice Davids of Kansas became the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Davids also made history as the first openly LGBT woman of color in Congress.
  • Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman.
  • New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old progressive, won in a shocking upset.
  • Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became Texas’s first two Latina congresswomen.
  • Lou Leon Guerrero became the first woman governor of Guam.
  • Angie Craig became the first openly lesbian mother in Congress and the first openly LGBT member of Congress from Minnesota.
  • Jahana Hayes, a former schoolteacher, became Connecticut’s first black congresswomen.
  • Young Kim of California became the first Korean American woman in Congress.
  • Marsha Blackburn became Tennessee’s first woman elected to the Senate.
  • Janet Mills in Maine, Kim Reynolds in Iowa, and Kristi Noem in South Dakota became the first female governors for their states.

The 2018 election cycle was also the first following the defeat of the first woman presidential candidate of a major party. In this cycle, many women saw a need to change the status quo and volunteered to run without being recruited. They also ran differently. Instead of putting on the power suit and spouting resume talking points, they featured their children in ads, offered personal testimony about sexual harassment and abuse, and opened up about family struggles, drug abuse and debt. Their openness connected with many facing the same struggles, and their authenticity paid off.

According to figures compiled by the Center for American Progress in November 2018:

  • A record number – at least 126 women so far ­– have won seats in the US Congress (three races remain uncalled by the Associated Press).
  • A historic high of 43 women of color were elected to Congress, along with at least three who identify as LGBTQ.
  • The number of women serving in state legislatures will exceed 2,000 for the first time ever.
  • The number of women governors rose by 50 percent, from six to nine.

More Gains to be Made

These are exciting numbers and historic wins, but we clearly still have a significant leadership gap. As of January 2019, women will still represent less than one fourth of members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate. Although they will hold 28 percent of seats in state legislatures, women hold only 18 percent of governorships, and, as of August 2018, are less than a quarter of the mayors of America’s 100 largest cities. To be clear, women make up slightly more than one half the population.

We must continue our support of women doing the hard work of holding elected office and encourage women to run and especially to run again. One defeat means nothing in a political career. EMILY’s List, VoteRunLead, and She Should Run all reported a huge surge in women interested in running in this cycle. These women who mustered their courage demonstrated that women are truly ready to lead, and that the people are ready to elect them in their communities, states, and nation. We need to celebrate these women who are paving the way, and help others follow their lead.

We can also encourage and inspire our daughters, granddaughters, and young women in our communities. There are a number of organizations that will make good use of our time, talent and treasure. For example, Girls Inc. has chapters nationwide and works to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers has an initiative dedicated to making women’s public leadership visible to the next generation, with programs set up nationwide, called Teach a Girl to LeadTM. The Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at University of Missouri St. Louis prepares college women and has even hosted a Girls’ Summit for middle schoolers.  Ask around in your community for opportunities to mentor and engage at a local level, and if you don’t find any, join with other women to start one.

Ultimately, we want 2018’s “Pink Wave” to close the leadership gap and make our voices heard on every level. Women leaders change the game. We do indeed need at least half our leaders to be women, and by working together we can make it happen. Just think how that will change our country and the world!

We Need Male Allies to Help Us Get Ahead

Male AlliesFor gender parity to succeed, we need male allies at every level of government, in the workplace, and the communities we call home. The main argument for achieving women’s parity is that you only get half the results when you engage half of the population. So doesn’t it make sense, that the same is true in working for parity itself? It should be obvious that we’ll get there faster if we all work together, but the system that rewards sexism in the workplace and our communities is strong and works against us to keep the status quo itself working against closing the wage gap, assuming our fair share of leadership positions and achieving full equality.  We must engage men (the other half of the population) in new ways, make them feel like they belong and help them understand their own benefits from women’s advancement, and shift their perspective of how they can help us get ahead.

Men often don’t see the disparities, despite the fact that they have a larger stake in women’s equality than in the past. Many men today count on the financial contribution their wives make to the family economy, and they were likely raised by women who worked. They also want their daughters to succeed and will express outrage when the women in their lives encounter discrimination or barriers at work. But that personal perspective needs to be widened to a world view for them to truly understand the value of gender parity.

Include Men In Gender Equity Discussions

To help our male counterparts become more aware and include them in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that some women’s conferences and employee resource groups are changing their approach by creating events aimed at men, and inviting them to attend. Their approach is based on evidence which shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress – compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.

Do the math, an organization has a 66% greater chance of succeeding if men are “deliberately engaged.” That’s huge. In fact, this discrepancy illustrates that if we don’t work with men, significant progress is doubtful, and gender inclusion programs will likely fail.

The evidence for parity just keeps multiplying. Take for example the pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) projects that the U.S. economy would generate additional income of more than $512 billion if women received equal pay. And if that doesn’t get your attention, a recent McKinsey study showed that stricter workplace gender equity practices could add $12 trillion the global GDP by 2025 (seven short years from now) with stronger workplace gender equity practices. $12 trillion dollars definitely makes the case for working together to change the status quo. That extra money isn’t just for women. Everyone benefits. Men too.We, yes women and men, need to recognize and acknowledge the gender inequality problem so that we can work together to correct it. Equal pay for equal work is a unifying goal that benefits all of us.

Male Allies Also Subjected to Backlash

However, including men in our efforts to close the gap isn’t as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. As HBR reports, these efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. While some research has shown that white men face no penalty for promoting diversity, other studies suggest that there can be a cost to acting as an ally. In fact, men who display willingness to be an ally and behave as mentors, collaborators and other ways identified as feminine work-styles, they can be subjected to the same backlashes as women. It’s called “the wimp penalty.” The HBR reporters sum it up, “Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior.”

Diversity and inclusion doesn’t just happen, and while we may have a group of men willing to stand with us, the impact of that system can keep men in their place, just as much as women. Awareness can give us the tools we need to work around it and get men to help us claim our fair share. However, not all male allies are created equally. Diversity consultant Jennifer Brown frames allyship on a continuum ranging from apathetic (no understanding of the issues) to aware (knows basic concepts) to active (well-informed, sharing and seeking diversity) to advocate (committed, routinely and proactively championing inclusion).

Our Male Allies Matter

We need to let our allies know, at all phases of the continuum, how much they matter. HBR reports that gender parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have an important role to play, that their partnership is valued, and that transformation of the workplace is something they can share in. Feeling accepted boosts male allies’ internal motivation to participate and further strengthens gender alliance efforts.

Men are a great and necessary resource in advancing leadership opportunities for women in the workplace. It’s in all our best interests to make our companies as productive and profitable as we can. That’s why we all need to work together to change the status quo and make a real, daily commitment to working together to change the system to one that supports more balanced diverse management and workforce.

Scroll to top

SITE MADE WITH LOVE BY CHOICE DIGITAL MARKETING