Reflections on Women’s History and Making History

Editor’s Note: This posting is written by Vision 2020’s Susan Butler, Leadership Circle member and Visionary Delegate, and appears on her website, http://www.sbbinstitute.org

This month is a time to reflect on women everywhere who have been part of the world’s history.  In thinking about this, I believe that means virtually all of us. We have all played a part in some way or another – so did our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and on down the line.  We may not be in the history books, which is too bad, but we have been in the footnotes, one way or another.

I dedicate this message to all who have made such an impact and to everyone who will influence permanent equality for women around the world. A quote from Mahatma Gandhi says, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  

How are you going to change the world?

When I think about women who have made change happen here’s who comes to mind: Deborah Sampson who in the 1700’s changed her name to Robert, bound her breasts and became the first American woman to join the Army; the women who kept the United States productive when the men went off to later wars;  Catherine Littlefield Greene who gave her idea about the cotton gin to Eli Whitney; all those women in horse-drawn wagons who helped open up the American West; Susan B. Anthony and her suffragettes who thought women would gain equality when the 19th amendment gave us the right to vote; and all of the other “first women” of medicine, education, journalism, politics, business, nonprofits, sports, radio /television and beyond.

I also have to say thank you to Gloria Steinem and the women of the 1960s. They may have been a bit too radical for me, but their activism provided inroads for many of us to advance in a male-dominated world and showed us all the collective power of women. 

We still have a long way to go.. Women now represent about 50 percent of the U.S. population.  We account for about 85 percent of major purchases. And we are over 50% of the college graduates.

Yet we represent less than 20 percent of the U.S. Congress, less than 20 percent of executive positions in corporate America and less than 10 percent of the top-earning positions in American companies.

So much for equality.

There are many times recently when someone asks: Where are the women?  This happened recently in a congressional hearing  in Washington about contraception.  The witnesses were all men!  I had a similar observation during the Academy Awards when I saw the nominees for the Best Director category: They were all men. And then there was an ad I noticed in the Wall Street Journal by a large firm in New York: The ad had pictures only of men.

Where are the women?

 There is lots of research about where we aren’t and why.  And, I have to say that finally, there are many who are focusing on impacting the future. We need to focus on quality in sight by 2020.  For me, I would be happy if we would be at least 30% women EVERYWHERE! Two groups I work with – Vision 2020 and ION – are among those organizations that working to make equality happen. 

This is important.  Our economy would be growing more if women were paid equal to men; the economy would be in a better position today if there had been more women around the decision tables (Lehman Brothers should have been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, for instance); the economic issues discussed at the World Economic Forum would have better solutions and the world would be a better place for our daughters and granddaughters.

Women count!  We need to step up and change the world.  We can do it.  

Whether if is preparing your children for their future, making a difference for women in your community, organization, business, etc., or developing yourself to be a senior leader, we can do it.  At the same time, we owe it to other women to help them be who they want to be.  

It’s time for us all to step up and step out.  We CAN change the world, just like others did for us.  

Thank you again to the women who paved the way for all of us, and thank you for what you will do for the women changing the world today and beyond.

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About equalityinsight

Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today! http://www2.drexelmed.edu/vision2020giftsonline/Individual.aspx
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One Response to Reflections on Women’s History and Making History

  1. Gail Johnson says:

    It helps to know about the women who had the gumption to run for political office and succeed in breaking through to positions that had only been held by men. History has a way of ignoring them. But the stories of women just like us who did extraordinary things are inspiring. As we approach the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, it is a bit disturbing to see that we are a long way from equity–and even more disturbing to see that the percentage of women in politics appears to be on a downward trend.

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