What I am about to say may seem controversial; however, I think what I have in mind is just an extension beyond what the millions of protestors felt yesterday when they poured out into cities to march in the USA for women; it’s just a little longer-term thinking.
Hear me out.
I didn’t march yesterday. I didn’t march, because I was trying to run a board meeting for a non-profit that serves women in healthcare, and that is concerned with getting more women at the helm of healthcare organizations, equal pay, and everything you’d expect from an organization that supports women, leadership and gender parity. This day had been planned for a long time, and hopefully, it will positively affect several women and address their leadership skills over the course of 2017.
While I get that a march might be a good start, what happened after all the women (and men) returned to their hotel rooms, or home? Trump is still in the White House, with his paltry 13% women-led cabinet.
The bottom line: Nothing changed.
It is what comes NEXT that I think is crucial to women gaining leadership and authority in this country – not a one day march.
Here’s my point: if you REALLY support women and their climb to leadership positions, support gender parity and equal rights for women, a one day march isn’t going to cut it. We have to train, sponsor and support women who attempt and gain leadership positions. If you REALLY want to support women, here are some humble suggestions that may, at least in my mind, have much longer term results than a one-day march:
1. Help her learn how to run for political office - There are a few solid leadership training programs out there for women to learn what it really takes to run for office (and it takes a LOT, trust me, I’ve been to several political training programs, and I still personally have not run for office yet). My favorite for very biased reasons is the Women’s Campaign School at Yale - because it is bipartisan, and because it’s real. They train you on what it REALLY takes to run for office. (And I’m here to say, it isn’t easy to run for office. I find the process intimidating, to say the least, and few things intimidate me these days.)
2. Sponsor her in Corporate America - Women have all the mentors they need for right now, thanks. What they really need in order to get into leadership positions are SPONSORS. Sponsors are men and women already in leadership positions who can fight for their ‘sponorees’ when they’re not in the room at the same company. These need to be senior leaders sponsoring junior up and coming leaders AT THE SAME ORGANIZATION. Men–I’m telling you here that the best way you can step up and help this cause is to start sponsoring more junior women at the company in which you work. And, I’m talking to senior women here too who think they have zero obligation to bring along the next generation, since they had no support. You DID have support, and it’s time to pay it back by sponsoring other women, period.
3. Teach and give her opportunities to lead in nonprofits - Schools are not teaching students how to be good citizens and civically minded. I never had any formal training on Robert’s Rules of Order for running a board meeting, or the very real fiduciary duties of serving on a board (Duty of Care, Duty of Obedience and the Duty of Loyalty)–that is, until I went to law school on the fiduciary duty part, and then I learned all the horrible things that can go wrong when boards aren’t in compliance with fiduciary duties. We have to train our girls AND boys on how to serve in these capacities, so they can stretch their leadership skills and become good stewards of organizations. There needs to be some level of formality, like taking notes and follow up that comes out of these boards in addition to and supplementing fiduciary duties, along with civility. Are we really teaching our girls (and boys) how to be good civic-minded individuals, or just the few and privileged?
4. Teach and give her opportunities to lead in FOR profits - Ditto to #3, but there’s a whole other level and range of issues here – millions or billions of dollars at stake and tens of thousands of jobs vs. a tiny non profit that is all volunteer driven. Again, where is the training for this? Boardroom Bound is a course I took on my own. There are others.
5. Vote with your wallet – Of all the steps above, this is the easiest to implement, and anyone can do it. Write down a list of the top 10 retailers you spend money with. Then, go look at their corporate websites. How many women do they have on their board? How many C-suite officers are women? If you see no women, just stop buying stuff from their stores. Quit them, cold turkey. If you really want to go crazy, write their CEO a letter and tell him (most likely a him, anyway) why you stopped buying from them, and that you want to see more women on their board and in their C-suite before you consider returning to their company. Nothing gets corporate America’s attention more than money. I loved that Pink Magazine used to write up a naughty list–a list of companies with all male boards, and I wish they still did this, because it makes voting with my wallet that much easier. (You can do this too, by the way, with your political candidates – ask them when they are campaigning how many women staffers they have…this is one of many issues you can bring to their attention that is important to you.)
There. I mean zero offense to the men and women who took the time to march yesterday in protest; I’m glad they did. But, if we really, truly and fundamentally want positive change and gender equality in this country, we’re going to have to do a LOT more than just march for one day, ladies and gentlemen. We’re going to have to change, step up, and create this evolution the long haul.