Why Women’s Equality Day Is So Important

By Shelley Zalis, Women@Forbes. Source: forbes.com

Did you know that less than 100 years ago you didn’t have the right to vote in the U.S. if you were a woman? Women’s Equality Day celebrates the passage of the 19thAmendment, which granted women the right to vote on August 26, 1920.

Power Of The Pack

The women’s suffragist movement was successful in large part because a group of passionate women (and men) banded together to activate change. Now-famous activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul, took big risks (even risking their safety); used their voices and traveled a rocky road to rewrite the old rules that were written by and for men, but that were no longer working.

As women in the messy middle, you too may be facing challenges where the current workplace culture has been designed by and for men and is no longer working for the modern world. There may be subtle forces (such as unconscious bias) and not-so-subtle forces (such as blatant sexism) holding you back from advancement. Today, we should continue to come together, both women and men, in the fight for equality. Equality is not a female issue, it’s a social and economic imperative.

The Girls’ Lounge@ DC March 2017 candlelight vigil

For the suffragists, change didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took decades. However, these trailblazers committed to fight for what we now consider to be basic rights—such as women’s right to vote and own property—but that weren’t a given a hundred years ago.

Let us not forget how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Today, nearly 60% of college graduates are women, women enter the workforce at about 50/50 and more than 40% of women are the primary bread winners.

Rewriting the rules

On the flip side, we still have a gender wage gap (that widens for African American and Hispanic women), no mandatory paid maternity leave and C-suites where less than one in five leaders are women.

No matter your job or background, every woman has her own story. For far too long, women’s stories have been left out of the history books. One of the biggest problems we have today for rising up in the messy middle is visibility of women doing remarkable things. Even now, sometimes our stories don’t get shared of how impactful we can be. How do we expect our next generation to lead if we’re not sharing our stories and our journeys with them, and inspiring them to take leadership roles?

Sharing Our Stories

I love the Shine Theory that says when women help other women rise, we all shine. Let’s celebrate the women who came before, and the women with us today who are reimagining the rules and blazing a new path. These women are your friends, family, colleagues, bosses, influencers and leaders. They are the women in your life who are bravely using their voices, reimagining the workplace, creating cultures of care and leading with compassion.

To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, you might light a candle in honor of these women who inspire you, or let them know how you feel by sharing the message, “You inspire me because _______ #WomensEqualityDay #TheFemaleQuotient” on your social channels. Or maybe, if you’re close to her, take a moment to tell her why she inspires you face to face.

Women’s stories matter. Own your story and share your story with other women. If more of us can do this, we’ll begin to change the rules together. I always say, a woman alone has power, but collectively we have impact.