Are we willing to harness the power of all women?
If you are a woman, you are obligated to bring up other women. -Juanita Baranco
At the recent Junior League of Atlanta Women’s Forum, this sentiment pulsated through the audience of women seeking to further their civic engagement. Across a majority of fields, women are being left behind their male counterparts, despite being a majority of college graduates. And that outlook is even poorer for women of color. In addition to having fewer opportunities, women of color are more often hindered by perceptions that they’re angry or too loud or by issues of ethnic identity. But as Stephanie Davis pointed out, “it’s not whether we are loud or not, women are not at the table.” So how do we get more women to the table? Are we willing to get uncomfortable and harness the power of all women?
Too often, we fail to empower others. We miss the opportunity to address bullying behavior and stop language that inherently limits advancement. We know the empirical evidence proves that diversity and inclusion yield better outcomes. Now is the time to open doors and raise the ceiling.
So, I have to ask, how much further are you committed to going? Are you willing to empower each other? Are you willing to have authentic and honest conversations about the intersection of not only gender, but also of race and religion? Are you willing to get uncomfortable? Are you willing to be an advocate for yourself and others?
Ladies, we do not have an even playing field and the truth is race and religion create very real barriers. As a result, many talented women hit a lower ceiling and we all lose out. As president of the Junior League of Atlanta, I observed that the truly most effective teams delivering measurable results are highly inclusive. If you want to maintain the status quo, put two women together who look alike, have shared faith and who may respect and value each other. However, if you put two women together who do not share the same race, religion etc. and also respect and value the other, then the results take a quantum leap.
The answer lies in committing to listening to all of our sisters, to learn about the intersections that dim the lights on one’s future, and to most of all use our voice to be an advocate for women. This is about how we advocate for ourselves and ALL women. It is about harnessing our power. As you consider how you can leave a legacy for all women, consider the following tips from the JLA Women’s Forum:
- Listen and learn about other ethnic backgrounds and intersections that limit a woman’s outcome
- Don’t be a person who says you’re sorry.
- Understand that diversity and inclusion are a business case for success
- Do your due diligence and demonstrate your talents
- Embrace motivating and empowering fellow women
- Give yourself permission to fail.
- Work with people who can strengthen your weaknesses.
- Ask for the promotion or raise
- Speak up when others use a stereotype or phrase that overtly or subtly limit another’s growth
- Use your voice to advocate – learn to speak up, learn who you are and know that you have value.
For each of us to be given the absolute best chance for success, women must stand together.